Today was our “Armageddon?” lab, a lab where students tried to predict the orbits of asteroids to determine which ones might be a threat to Earth. Although our equations were much simpler than the real ones used by NASA, the basic method was the same: graph Earth’s orbit, graph the asteroid’s orbit, and see if they cross.
If an asteroid’s orbit does cross Earth’s, then it needs to be watched closely. An asteroid less than 100 feet wide would probably burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. But an asteroid larger than that could cause serious damage. Remember, the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs was only about 6 miles wide.
Whenever students discovered a dangerous asteroid, they used its orbit, size, and mass to determine how much of a threat it posed to Earth. All threats were handed into the NASA mailbox, which will be used for today’s lab grade. But don’t worry too much. Although there were several dangerous asteroids discovered, NASA does not expect any of them to collide with Earth within the next thousand years. So you can all rest easy!