Exercise for planetary defense: fictitious asteroid impact threatens the Czech Republic


In the current simulation game based on the hypothetical scenario of an impending asteroid impact, it has meanwhile been found that the fictitious celestial body will hit the Czech border area with Germany and Austria. Defense measures in space were not possible.

This is shown by the publications on the “Planetary Defense Conference Exercise”, which also show that we are currently insufficiently prepared for such a scenario. With such a short preparation time as in the exercise, no space probe could currently be launched in order to deflect or destroy the asteroid in time. The exercise will end this Thursday.

This year’s simulation game is the fifth to be carried out as part of the biennial Planetary Defense Conference. This year it is being organized by the United Nations Office for Space Affairs (UNOOSA) in Vienna, but is taking place virtually due to the corona pandemic. At the beginning of the exercise, the participants only knew that this year’s asteroid in the scenario was discovered on April 19 and that there is a probability of 1 in 2500 that it could hit Earth in mid-October. In the course of the first day of the exercise, the probability had risen to 5 percent. There was still a possibility of an impact in a huge area that covered two thirds of the earth’s surface. Participants include space agencies such as ESA and NASA, as well as disaster relief workers.

As can be seen from the publications for the exercise, the location of the hypothetical impact was narrowed down in the further course of the simulation game: First after a fictional week to an area that stretched from Scandinavia through Central Europe to Egypt. At the same time, the probability that the hypothetical impact would occur increased to 100 percent. The size of the hypothetical celestial body could still not be specified more precisely than at 35 to 700 meters. At this point in time, there were no more options, there were no space probes that could be prepared in time and sent to the asteroid. But if there were, there would only be time for a probe that could attempt to break open the asteroid with an atomic bomb.

In the meantime it looked like this.

(Bild: Planetary Defense Conference Exercise – 2021)

Four months before the hypothetical impact, it turned out in the scenario that the impact would take place in the middle of Central Europe, on October 20th. Depending on where exactly, people could not survive in a huge area, on average an impact still affected around half a million people at this point in time. Should the hypothetical asteroid go down on the northwestern edge of the fictitious impact zone – near Hanover – a maximum of 6.6 million people would be affected. In the simulation game, this is the status at the end of June, i.e. four months before the fictitious impact.

Differences between the number of people affected on average and the maximum number of people affected, depending on as yet unknown data from the asteroid and the actual location of the impact.

(Bild: Planetary Defense Conference Exercise – 2021)

At the end of the simulation game and as part of this on October 14 – six days before the impact – it was able to be narrowed down to a small area in the Czech Republic. It is now clear that the fictional asteroid has a size of around 105 meters, which is significantly smaller than initially feared but around five times as large as the Chelyabinsk meteorite. In an area several dozen kilometers in diameter, which also includes parts of Germany and Austria, the fictitious impact would be impossible for humans to survive. What the practitioners will do with it will now be seen. The scenario also states that a more sensitive device used to search for dangerous asteroids would almost certainly have discovered the fictional celestial body during its last flyby in 2014. The preparation time would then have been significantly longer.