Researchers are creating 3D models and using one of NASA's most powerful supercomputers to produce simulations of hypothetical asteroid impact scenarios. The results will help first responders and other agencies to identify and make better-informed decisions for how best to defend against life-threatening asteroid events.
In 2013, the Russian city of Chelyabinsk was affected by an asteroid's shock wave which injured over 1,200 people and damaged buildings as far away as 93 kilometres (58 miles).
High-fidelity simulations of potential asteroids covering a wide range of sizes were run on the Pleiades supercomputer using NASA's Cart3D and Lawrence Livermore National Lab's ALE3D modelling software by experts on the Asteroid Threat Assessment Project at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility at Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley, a NASA statement revealed.
The NASA team was able to run large-scale simulations of the Chelyabinsk asteroid event on Pleiades to produce many impact scenarios quickly, because Cart3D is dozens of times faster than typical 3-D numerical modeling used for aerodynamic analysis.
Pleiades is an open star cluster containing middle-aged, hot B-type stars located in the constellation of Taurus. The detailed simulations allowed the team to model the fluid flow that occurs when asteroids melt and vaporise as they break up in the atmosphere.
NASA's asteroid research is shared with scientists at universities, national labs, and government agencies who develop assessment and response plans to look at damage to infrastructure, warning times, evacuations, and other options for protecting lives and property.