NASA researchers created 3D models and used one of the U.S. space agency's most powerful supercomputers to produce simulations of possible asteroid impact scenarios.

Simulating Asteroid Impacts On NASA's Pleiades Supercomputer

NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division experts who work on the Asteroid Threat Assessment Project at the Ames Research Center in California ran high-fidelity simulations of potential asteroid events on the Pleiades supercomputer.

Pleiades, NASA's flagship supercomputer, ranks on the TOP500 list as the 13th fastest computer in the world as of November 2016,

The team was able to run large-scale simulations of the Chelyabinsk asteroid event on Pleiades using Lawrence ALE3D modeling software — which was developed by the Livermore National Lab to model hydrodynamics, burn response, heat transfer, and fracture and fragmentation — and NASA's Cart3D.

Cart3D was initially used for the aviation industry and the Space Shuttle Program, and is significantly faster when compared with the typical 3D numerical modeling used for aerodynamic analysis.

The Chelyabinsk asteroid event , which happened in 2013, involved an extraterrestrial rock that struck the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. Blast from the shock wave produced by the asteroid damaged buildings and broke windows up to 58 miles away and injured over 1,200 people.

"Large-scale simulations of the Chelyabinsk airburst event were run on the Pleiades supercomputer using NASA's Cart3D software to propagate the blast from the asteroid's entry corridor to the countryside surrounding the city," NASA said.

"These simulations allowed the team to compare their predictions of the blast overpressures and shock arrival time at specific locations covering over 40,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles)."

More Accurate And Faster Evaluation Of Potential Damage Caused By Asteroid Impact

NASA said that the ability to evaluate the potential damage caused by an asteroid strike and develop appropriate mitigation strategies becomes faster and more accurate because of state-of-the-art impact simulations and risk models run on supercomputers.

The detailed simulations on Pleiades allowed the researchers to model the fluid flow that happens when asteroids melt and vaporize as they break up in the Earth's atmosphere. The simulations and probabilistic risk models likewise offer researchers highly accurate estimates of the damage that can be caused by asteroid impacts.

The simulations can also help address questions about which of water and land impacts produce more damage.

The work done in support of NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office is hoped to help first responders and other agencies to come up with the best damage-mitigating strategies and solutions in case life-threatening asteroid events happen.

Planet Earth Vulnerable To Asteroid Strikes

Asteroid strikes that involve massive rocks proved to be catastrophic in the past. The extinction of the prehistoric dinosaurs is largely blamed on a massive asteroid that hit Earth thousands of years ago. Another catastrophic asteroid impact may still happen anytime.

Astrophysicist Alan Fitzsimmons, from the Queen's University in Belfast, Ireland, earlier warned that our planet is vulnerable to an asteroid impact. He said that it is just a matter of time before Earth experiences another deadly asteroid strike.

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