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I How to determine if an asteroid will burn up or hit Earth?

  1. Oct 26, 2017 #1
    I want to make a interactive simulation that shows whether or not an asteroid will hit the surface of the Earth. It would have 2 sliders for you to control the speed and mass of the asteroid. The simulation will output "yes" or "no" if the asteroid hits the surface.

    Is there a mathematical formula to determine if an asteroid is fast enough or big enough to pass through Earth's atmosphere without burning up? Is there a way to simplify this with some assumptions?

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 26, 2017 #2


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    hi there

    you have labelled your thread with an "I" undergraduate level, what research have you done for yourself so far ?

    speed isn't going to vary overly much with around 45km / sec being the avg.
    What is more important and you didn't account for is it's density. you can have two 10m diameter rocks, one is very dense nickel/iron and one is stony
    The nickel/iron WILL make it to the ground and for the most part stay intact till impact.
    But the stony rock of the same size is more likely to break up / explode in the atmosphere and hit the ground in many smaller pieces.

    Ant nickel/iron object of around 5m or more will make it to the ground, the atmosphere cant stop it
  4. Oct 26, 2017 #3


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    Purdue University made such a simulation a while back: Impact Earth!
    So I'm sure there are mathematical formulas to determine such things.
    But, they used 4 variables(diameter, angle of entry, density, velocity), so a two slider control would have to set two variables as constants.

    Regardless of which two variables you choose, I think it would be a fun project.

    ps. I only know this, as we discussed this earlier: Impact: Earth! A meteor/comet impact simulator
  5. Oct 28, 2017 #4
    I have tried to do research myself and have only found given scenarios but no formulas to calculate my own. I am currently taking an introduction to astronomy course and this subject is outside the curriculum.

    I figured it would be more complicated than I hoped. Thanks for pointing out the density parameter. I will either make it constant or add it as a variable if I have time. Is there a calculation I can do to prove these sized rocks would either burn or hit the ground?
  6. Oct 28, 2017 #5
    Thank you for this share! It's as fun as it is interesting. I found their article explaining the calculations and formulas they used for the simulation. If you or anyone would like to see it too, I shared it below. Looks like I have a lot of reading to do!

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