An Asteroid’s Worst Nightmare

Despite government agencies and amateur astronomers constantly watching the skies on the lookout for that single piece of space rock large enough to wipe us off the Earth, two asteroids larger than a school bus entered our atmosphere over Russia earlier this year causing about 1,500 indirect injuries. Over the years, scientists and researchers have dreamed up many ways to protect the Earth from certain doom. A new device invented by Philip Lubin, a physicist at UC Santa Barbara, and Gary Hughes, a statician at California Polytechnic State University, uses a rather large laser to either vaporize threatening asteroids or provide enough thrust to divert the asteroid from Earth.

DE-STAR, or Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation, orbits the Earth and consists of two panels: a photovoltaic panel and an array of lasers, that when phased, creates a 70 gigawatt laser. The laser would be directed at the asteroid in question by an onboard system and, powered by the sun via the photovoltaic panel, vaporize the asteroid by heating its surface to thousands of degrees Celsius. In under an hour the laser could vaporize an asteroid the size of the one that entered our atmosphere earlier this year or could be diverted by a much shorter blast.

Check out the full article in the July 2013 edition of Popular Science.

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