Can an asteroid be deflected by paintballs? MIT grad student makes the case | Science updates | -- Your State. Your News.

Jul 06th
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Can an asteroid be deflected by paintballs? MIT grad student makes the case

HotTopicslogo_optBY PAM LOBLEY

As many of us in N.J. hear warnings of the arrival of a significant nor'easter after Sandy the Frankenstorm, let’s take a brief moment and consider a worse possibility.

What if an asteroid was headed straight for us with no way to stop it?

According to a story on, an MIT graduate student, Sung Wook Paek, has theorized that if you could pelt the asteroid with white paint, the force of the paint might just knock the asteroid slightly off course, and then the white color would double the rock’s reflectivity, and the resulting solar radiation pressure would push it off course even further.

That’s a course of a different color.

When I told my son, age 15, about this he said, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I want to try it.”

Mr. Paek won the 2012 Move an Asteroid Technical Paper Competition, sponsored by the United Nations' Space Generation Advisory Council. He used as his model the asteroid Apophis, which is a 900-foot wide asteroid that scientists have been keeping an eye on as one of the most-likely-to-strike-Earth space rocks.

He reasons that it would take about five tons of white paint to cover the asteroid and then about 20 years for enough solar radiation to build up enough to alter the asteroid’s course.

You can read more about the idea on MIT News. Mr. Paek clearly is a brilliant student and has a bright future ahead of him. He is said to be deciding between a career at NASA and at Extreme Kidz Parties.

Pam Lobley writes the “Now That’s Funny” column. Check out her blog: Better Living Through Chaos! Follow her on twitter @plobley.


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