Washington, August 23 : An Australian researcher has come up with an idea to stop a giant asteroid from hitting and destroying the Earth in 2036, by wrapping it up with reflective sheeting.
The asteroid is 330 metres in diameter, only a fraction of the 10km wide asteroid which some scientists say caused the weather event which led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.
According to a report in www.news.com.au, if the asteroid hits our planet in 2036, the impact would have the force of 110,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs.
But, Mary D'Souza, a PhD student with the University of Queensland's School of Engineering went to work on a possible solution and took out the top prize in an international competition to find new ways of stopping asteroids from hitting Earth.
She beat entries from around the world in the Space Generation Advisory Council's "Move An Asteroid" 2008 competition and will travel to Glasgow at the end of September to present her plan at the International Astronautical Congress, the world's largest space conference.
Her proposal involves using enhanced solar radiation pressure to move the threatening asteroid off its path to Earth by wrapping it with Mylar film, "a step up from Kevlar".
The solar reflecting material is already used on satellites, which also could do the wrapping.
"I'm using a satellite that's orbiting the asteroid and the rotation of the asteroid itself to wrap this ribbon," D'Souza said. "So it's kind of like it wraps as it rotates," she added.
The Mylar film covering just 50 per cent of the asteroid would change its surface from dull to reflective, a necessary step to harness the power of the sun.
"What happens then is light from the sun shines on the body (of the asteroid); so more of it is reflected and it actually acts to move it away from the sun and the Earth," said D'Souza.
According to D'Souza, the rogue asteroid spends most of its time on the other side of the sun to the Earth and the next observation period would be in 2011.
"At that time, we'll probably be able to refine its orbit and determine how likely it is to hit the earth," she said. "If this one were to hit the earth, you could say that most of life would be extinguished," she added.