The power to save the world … from asteroids

April 12, 2021, 6:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe
In this illustration of the effects of two neutron yields (50 kt and 1 Mt) and two neutron energies (14.1 MeV and 1 MeV), the black dots represent the location of a nuclear device. Dark blue indicates where the asteroid remains solid, while all other colors show where material has been melted or vaporized. The illustration depicts asteroids with 0.8-m and 5-m diameters—much smaller than the 300-m asteroid simulated in the study—to enhance the visibility of the area of the energy deposition. Image: LLNL

A research collaboration between Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) has investigated how the neutron energy generated by the detonation of a nuclear device could affect the path and speed of an asteroid on a collision course with Earth by melting and vaporizing a portion of the asteroid. The research, which compared the deflection caused by two different neutron energies—14.1 MeV and 1 MeV, representing fusion and fission neutrons, respectively—is described in an article published by LLNL on April 8.