Asteroids threaten Earth in ‘Deep Impact’, ‘Armageddon’. Which movie was more realistic? NASA scientists weigh in.

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It's been 25 years since two of Hollywood's biggest asteroid movies, armageddon And Deep Impact, Hit Theatre. While no one is denying their entertainment value, scientists say their depictions of asteroids are pure fantasy. (Photo: Everett Collection)

In the summer of 1998, Hollywood offered up not one, but two blockbuster movies about asteroids headed for Earth.

Deep Impact, directed by Mimi Leder, tells the story of humanity facing a devastating threat from a asteroid, prompting the US government to build a network of underground shelters for a select few. Michael Bay Armageddon, Meanwhile, saw A ragtag of oil drillers, led by Bruce Willis, embarks on a dangerous mission to save the planet from an incoming, humanity-sniffing asteroid, by blasting it with a nuclear bomb buried at its center.

Now, 25 years after their original release – and just eight months after DartNASA's First Mission to Successfully Deflect an Asteroid's Trajectory in Deep Space Yahoo Entertainment is wondering: Was there any truth in this fiction?

Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck hug in a scene from the movie 'Armageddon', 1998.  (Photo by Touchstone/Getty Images)

Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck hug in a scene from the movie armageddon, about a group of oil diggers who go into space to destroy an asteroid headed for Earth. (Photo: Touchstone/Getty Images)

As many NASA scientists tell us, armageddonDepictions of planting a nuclear warhead in the center of an asteroid and blowing it up are unrealistic. others say Deep ImpactThe depiction of a giant tidal wave wiping out the east coast is farcical.

Here's what else some of the leading minds in asteroid science had to say.

Which movie is more scientifically accurate?

Phil PlaitAn American astronomer who worked with NASA on the Hubble telescope says Deep Impact By far the most “science-based” of the two.

In fact, he says, some of the scenes in the film are not too far from reality. There's even a moment when scientists strap a spacecraft to a threatening comet before planting a nuclear bomb in its core, hoping the explosion will deflect it from a course. Apart from the nuclear bombs, this method is surprisingly similar to the method used in September 2016, when philae lander Became the first man-made structure to land on the surface of a comet to retrieve images and data.

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seth jacobsonA planetary scientist and assistant professor at the University of Michigan, agrees Deep Impact is a more science-based film, but says, “It's not clear to me why burying a bomb in an asteroid would be a good strategy in the first place. It wouldn't be.

Plait agreed that “the biggest mistake in most asteroid movies” is the characters believing that blowing up the asteroid is a good idea. “Actually, the better thing is to make sure it never hits us,” as was recently accomplished with the DART mission through the use of a kinetic impactor. A spacecraft that acted like a giant catapult to redirect its course.

Two men in space suits using a piece of machinery in a scene from the movie 'Deep Impact', 1998.  (Photo by Paramount Pictures/Getty Images)

a view of Deep Impact, when two scientists use a piece of machinery to plant nuclear explosives inside a comet to blow it out of a collision course. (Photo: Paramount Pictures/Getty Images)

Also, “flying up asteroids is harder than most people think,” notes William Botkehead of Department of Space Studies at Southwest Research Institute,

Even if one succeeds in using an to blow up an asteroid, he says, the heat from the explosion will vaporize material on the surface and spread violently, eventually onto the rock. will push and replace it with a much faster asteroid, or “bullet,” a deadly “shotgun blast.”

and then it's late Jay MeloshAn American geophysicist who specialized in impact cratering, who proposed a way to deflect asteroids without bombs.

“He reasoned that we could fly to the asteroid and use a large optical surface to focus solar energy onto a small point on the asteroid,” Bottke says. “This will instantly vaporize the rock in a fashion that is no different than using the sun and a magnifying glass to burn a piece of paper. By choosing your spots carefully, you can make a rock comet and slowly could steer the asteroid onto a different trajectory.”

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Paul Chodasnasa director Center for Near Earth Object Studiesagree with Deep Impact is the more believable of the two, even though “there were a lot of scientific flaws in both movies,” he says.

“The more these films are based on scientific realism, the better,” he says. “But I also understand that these films need to be dramatic and entertaining.”

Steve Buscemi, Will Patton, Bruce Willis, Michael Clarke Duncan, Ben Affleck, and Owen Wilson walk in NASA uniforms in a scene from the movie 'Armageddon', 1998.  (Photo by Touchstone/Getty Images)

Actors Steve Buscemi, Will Patton, Bruce Willis, Michael Clarke Duncan, Ben Affleck and Owen Wilson walk in NASA uniforms during a scene armageddon, (Photo: Touchstone/Getty Images)

Did the underground shelters have any meaning?

Deep Impact famously exposed social inequalities by creating a network of underground shelters available only to the mega-rich, but Bottke says it's a fool's mistake anyway.

“For very large impacts, material ejected from the explosion can cause firestorms far from the event, and prolonged global cooling from smaller particles that enter the atmosphere,” he explains. It could also have an impact on agriculture, which relies on the sun, water and healthy soil for seeds to grow, which “could easily lead to worldwide famine.”

Underground shelters could probably save humanity in theory, says Plait, but it all depends on “how big the comet is and where it hits”. “If you know where the impact will be and make the shelter far away and heavily fortified, then… maybe?”

If comets were a so-called “planet killer,” like the plummeting Chicxulub influencer After the dinosaurs were wiped out, there would undoubtedly be changes in the climate that would last for years, affecting all animals on Earth.

“However, with some foresight, surviving through that period, subsurface, may be possible,” Jacobson noted. “We know that many small animals did just that because humans are the evolutionary descendants of those who survived the Chicxulub impact.”

Should we be worried about planet-killing asteroids?

Experts say that no one should lose sleep over this. “There is no asteroid large enough to approach Earth in our lifetime,” Chodas says. “A major impact is highly unlikely, and NASA and other institutions around the world are working to reduce concern even further as better asteroid search telescopes come online.”

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Contains NEO Surveyor MissionSlated to launch in September 2027, it aims to find at least two-thirds of near-Earth objects larger than 460 feet, or “those that could potentially cause regional devastation if one were to impact Earth.” does,” he explains.

Not to mention that a species-ending comet would become public much sooner, meaning that transparency would be demanded from citizens on a global scale, more than enough time to prepare us – to the contrary. Deep Impactwhen there was about a year before the impact of the world, and in Armageddon, In which there were only 18 days.

But if we've learned anything from such Hollywood tales, it's that time Always Of essence

Leelee Sobieski standing on the roof of a car in a scene from the movie 'Deep Impact', 1998.  (Photo by Paramount Pictures/Getty Images)

Leelee Sobieski standing on the roof of a car in a scene from the film Deep Impact. (Photo: Paramount Pictures/Getty Images)

“If we have decades [to prepare]Most likely, scientists and policy makers around the world will come up with an action plan,” Bottke noted. “The asteroid will become the most studied celestial object in history, and it will be placed on a trajectory that misses Earth. A plan will be developed to watch carefully. If we have a few years, the only option would be to use nuclear weapons,” attached a kinetic impactor, “for deflection.”

Chodas says of course, it is all imaginary. “We've already found over 95% of the asteroids capable of doing so. And they're not headed for Earth anytime soon.”

In the end, scientists say: At the end of the day, if Hollywood can get people excited about science, it's a good thing, wrong or not.

“A lot of scientists today, including me, were inspired by shows like star trek,” says Plait, “even though the science can be dodgy.”

Still, Bottke says, accuracy goes a long way. And all it takes is “a bit of script work,” something planetary scientists who are “huge nerds who love science fiction,” would happily sign up for. “Audiences also respond positively,” he says, “when they feel the filmmakers have tried to get things right.”