Picture this: It's an ordinary day - apart from that piece of comet hurtling toward Earth. But no big deal. Scientists say it will end up somewhere far away in the Atlantic.
But when you meet up with friends to watch the unique event on TV, awe quickly turns to horror. The fragment unexpectedly changes trajectory, burning up central Florida and sending out shockwaves 1,500 miles away.
As if that wasn't enough, scientists have just determined that an even larger space rock will wipe out most of humanity in two days. It's the stuff of nightmares - and also the premise behind the thriller.Greenland, streaming now on HBO Max.
GreenlandSterneGerard Butler as John Garrity, an engineer who must race against time to get his family to a military bunker in Greenland before the comet's largest fragment causes an extinction-level event.
Part of the film's horror comes from its seemingly plausible scenario: How could we protect ourselves - and our families - if a planet-destroying comet really did hit Earth?
Should we really be worried about a planet-destroying comet hitting Earth in our lifetime? Is this type of comet a real threat that NASA is seriously considering?
AccordinglyPaulo Byrne, Associate Professor of Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, we still don't have to build our bunkers - even if humanity isn't squeaky clean.
"Some of the parts that are happening aren't all that unrealistic," Byrne says.Turning back. "But is the scenario likely even in the short term? NO."
What is a "planet killer" comet?
The film's tagline describes the fragments of the comet known as Clarke as "planet killers". It appeared suddenly and from "another solar system".
That's pretty unrealistic, Byrne says. are astronomersvery goodwhile trackingdragoneasteroids- You wouldn't be surprised if one suddenly showed up. For example, earlier this year NASA scientists concluded that it was unlikelyAsteroid Bennuwill hit the earth in the nextseveral hundredYears.
Indeed, says Byrnethe wayThe comet crashes into Earth in fragmentsGreenlandit's reasonably realistic.
"Comments can arrive in one piece or break up, it really depends on the nature of the comet," Byrne says.
But the two-day lag between the smaller and larger fragment killing the planet is unlikely to occur, he adds. Instead, it feels more like a plot device to add dramatic tension to the film.
“Is what happens in the film realistic? No, it's not," says Byrne. "It's not clear why these chunks hit Earth over the course of several days." The only way this kind of sustained impact could occur would be if the fragments actually orbited the Earth instead of just passing through its atmosphere.
An object -- like a comet -- entering Earth's atmosphere would have to travel at least 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) per second to overcome Earth's escape velocity and reach the planet, Byrne says.
Other factors, such as the comet's energy and size, are likely more important than speed when determining whether an object will be a "planet killer."
"You could have an object that's moving at 11 kilometers per second and it could do a lot more damage than an object that's moving at 20 kilometers per second - if the slower object is much more massive," Byrne says.
While the initial fragment that destroys Tampa is inGreenlandis the size of a football field, Byrne says there are factors beyond size at play. The asteroid thathelped killMost dinosaurs were so devastating not only because of their size - 6 miles in diameter - but because they struck a certain area of the Yucatan Peninsula and released an enormous amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Can a comet hit the earth - and would we survive?
Inevitably, a comet will almost certainly hit Earth. Whether this will happen in our lifetime is uncertain.
"It's inevitable that a comet will hit, but when and how big it will be is unclear," says Byrne.
Over a period of perhaps a million years, a comet will become more likely to hit Earth. But since that's beyond the scope of our lives, Byrne says that anyone reading this article shouldn't worry about a comet killing the planet anytime soon.
"The odds of anything hitting us to worry about -- something that would destroy the planet within the next 100 years -- are extremely slim," Byrne says.
But let's assume this unlikely scenario occurs and a massive comethe doeshit the earth.
In this case, using a bunker in a remote area to avoid the comet's immediate impact is a pretty good plan, Byrne says - although he says it's unclear why the film is set in the bunker in Greenland and not , say, in Siberia.
If you don't have access to a bunker - and if the comet's impact is limited to only part of the planet - it's technically possible that you too could survive by boarding a plane and flying to a safe place.
"If it was small enough to just kill a town, you wouldn't have to go anywhere and you wouldn't even feel it," Byrne says.
A comet the size of the asteroid that likely killed the dinosaurs might not kill all of humanity today, but it would "set civilization back a long time ago," says Byrne, not to mention widespread famine , potentially killing billions and making it impossible for society to function. maintain.
The reality is that most people will not have access to a military bunker like John Garrity, nor will we be wealthy enough to fly a private jet. As always, even in more normal natural disasters such as hurricanes or wildfires, it is the poorest among us who are most at risk.
Can we prevent a comet from hitting Earth?
Absolutely, says Byrne, but we need enough advance notice to anticipate the comet's arrival.
Given enough time, scientists can predict their general path and approach - certainly long before the scientists are thereGreenland. Even a few weeks' worth of observations can help estimate a fragment's path, Byrne explains.
Congress is also asking NASA for a definitioneach near-Earth object 140 metersDiameter or larger above Earth, which helps track near-Earth objects that can be potentially dangerous.
NASA took this precaution a step further with the development of theDouble Asteroid Redirection Test (DART)). NASA's website describes the program as a "test of planetary defense technologies to prevent a dangerous asteroid from impacting Earth." The DART spacecraft is scheduled to launch sometime after November 24, 2021.
Meanwhile, blowing up a comet or an asteroid fragment with nuclear weapons - the plot of another science fiction epic,Armageddon— is “absurd” according to Byrne, “but there are possible technological approaches that we could use to redirect the trajectories” of these space objects.
These technologies include:
- Using the "gravity" of a small satellite orbiting the comet
- Paint the face of a comet or asteroid with white paint that would reflect sunlight and create momentum that would alter the comet's trajectory.
But the film's time lag before Clarke's planet-destroying fragment hits - 48 hours - is not nearly enough time to stop a comet from destroying itself. If we were really surprised by a comet of this magnitude, we wouldn't stand a chance.
"The bottom line is that we have to see these things coming," Byrne says.
role scienceIt is aturning backSeries that reveal the true (and false) science behind your favorite movies and series.
Greenlandis broadcast nowna HBO Max.
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|Produced by||John Suits|
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