Friday, October 26, 2012

Paintballs may deflect an incoming asteroid

With 20 years’ notice, paint pellets could cause an asteroid to veer off course.

Paintballs may deflect an incoming asteroid
                                    An artist's rendering of the asteroid Apophis.
                                    Image: European Space Agency 
In the event that a giant asteroid is headed toward Earth, you’d better hope that it’s blindingly white. A pale asteroid would reflect sunlight — and over time, this bouncing of photons off its surface could create enough of a force to push the asteroid off its course.

How might one encourage such a deflection? The answer, according to an MIT graduate student: with a volley or two of space-launched paintballs.

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