Think that it’s only Hollywood filmmakers who speculate about what would happen if Earth was ever struck by an errant asteroid? Think again! This week, NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN), and assorted other top international agencies are bringing together their sharpest minds to help figure out how Earth would prepare for the potentially devastating worst case scenario that is an asteroid strike.
Taking place throughout this week, the International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defense Conference will play out a tabletop scenario in which a “Potentially Hazardous Asteroid” is discovered by astronomers in the sky. With an average size that could range from 100-300 meters, the asteroid is first considered to have a 1 in 50,000 chance of colliding with Earth (in the vicinity of 0.002%), which later rises to a 1 in 100 probability of impact. The conference, which sounds like the world’s most terrifying team-building event, is intended to examine what would happen next.
This is not the first time such an event has been held. Approximately every two years, asteroid experts come together to play out similar scenarios, intended to explore the best way to proceed should such an apocalyptic end-game situation actually threaten Earth. However, 2019 represents the first year in which proceedings will be shared in real-time using social media. To follow along, you can check out the @esaoperations Twitter channel and catch updates on Facebook. (Considering how the Twitter universe freaks out whenever a new episode of Game of Thrones comes out, we don’t want to imagine what it would be like if an asteroid really was on its way to wipe out humankind!)
“These exercises have really helped us in the planetary defense community to understand what our colleagues on the disaster management side need to know,” said Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer, in a statement. “This exercise will help us develop more effective communications with each other and with our governments.”
Fortunately, as the press release stresses, “Although realistic, [this scenario] is completely fictional and does not describe an actual asteroid impact.” So don’t start building your asteroid-proof underground bunker and writing your boss a long letter revealing exactly what you think of them just yet.
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