Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why blowing up the comet heading for Earth is a terrible idea
Neil deGrasse Tyson (Screen shot)

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson explained to CNN that the films "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon" came up with terrible ideas for solving the comet and asteroid crisis that the Earth is facing.

Both films deal with a massive body headed toward Earth that could destroy life on the planet. Both also use nuclear bombs to blow them up as a way of saving humanity.

In reality, however, two scientists discovered seven years ago that a comet, 60 to 100 miles wide, was headed on a path that would come very close to Earth. It's not expected to hit Earth, however.

"Last month the discoverers of the giant object—University of Pennsylvania astronomers Gary Bernstein and Pedro Bernardinelli—combined their earlier data with fresh sightings of the distant object this summer and confirmed their suspicions," the Daily Beast reported Sunday.

"Its close approach in 2031 will be a monumental time to study the comet's chemistry and reveal what our neck of the woods was like before there were planets zipping around," said the Beast.

"One of the best things about this comet is that we've got a while until it makes its closest approach to the Sun, so we've got years to study how it brightens up as its surface gets exposed to the Sun's warmth," said Amy Mainzer, an astronomer and comet expert at the University of Arizona.

Speaking to CNN, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson went a little further into the fears and anxieties giving Earthlings learning of the comet for the first time.

"So, if you look in movies about this sort of thing, what they want to do is blow the sucker out of the sky," he said. "We're very good at blowing stuff up because we have no end of weaponry to do this. But that's not the wisest path. All engineering calculations tell us if you blow something up, while we're good at blowing it up, we're not as good knowing where the pieces will end up. So, it's safer and it's more controlled to deflect an asteroid from harm's way."

He called the project the DART, double asteroid redirect test, where scientists can just give a comet or an asteroid a little bump outside of their existing orbit. The power and gravity of other planets, moons and bodies in our solar system could then impact the path of the comet.

"We know that orbit with good enough precision that if we slam our spacecraft into the moon, it will alter that orbit, and it should alter it in a measurable way," said Dr. Tyson. "And if we succeed at that, it's like, oh, yes, now we have methods and tools to deflect asteroids that we may one day discover have our name on it."

See his full explanation in the video below:


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