Don’t look now – but we are now witnessing a series of stories about an impending global catastrophe. But unlike reports of epidemics and climate change, this global catastrophe is caused by the impact of a giant asteroid. or the offender. or both. Given recent events, this might seem ominous Netflix movie “Don’t Look Up” Where Earth is threatened by a “planetary killer” asteroid.

But how worried are we — and what would happen if such a body really hit us?

In my experience, deadly asteroids hit the summer months when news of Earth is faint. We may have enough grim news about the spread of the omicron COVID variant and the related problems that a deadly (or comet) asteroid can make for refreshing change.

Some British newspapers turned to Nostradamus, the astrologer from the 16th century. Several stories were published in late 2021 and 2022 was the year Nostradamus predicted that the world would end Giant collision with an object from space. This hook contains objects that may (or may not) come close to Earth in 2022.

My favorite list was published in Al Shams newspaper, which describes five asteroids It goes to Earth only in January.

The terrifying headline and the accompanying image of Earth in apparent danger somewhat undermine the following sentences from the image, in which the newspaper states that “all asteroids expected this year will pass close to Earth at a great distance and are unlikely to strike our planet.” We’ve already missed (or missed) the first two asteroids on this list (2021 YQ and 2021 YX) that hit Earth on January 5 at 1.3 and 2.4 million miles, respectively.

Aerial view of Barringer crater. credit: USGS

No, I haven’t noticed them either – and I’m studying asteroids. In the next few days, three more asteroids, 1 million to 5 million miles in length and ranging in size from a car to the Statue of Liberty, are expected to fly from Earth in the next few days. The person who scores the closest will still be four times away from the moon, so they don’t have very close contacts.

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Is “look” unreal?

Don’t look for an allegory, it uses the global catastrophic impact of the “planet killer” to the global catastrophic impact of climate change. It is a story about corruption, corruption, and its own political and institutional interests, which are put before the health and well-being of humanity. It’s also very fun

Not to mention plenty of spoilers, the plot centers around two astronomers (a student and her professor) who discover a comet that will collide with Earth in six months. They try to tell the President of the United States (played wonderfully by Meryl Streep), but she is more interested in the midterm elections.

The film is a satire of right-wing American politics, the impact of political donations on politics (and politicians), the growing ability of modern technology to gather information about health, habits, and lifestyle, and the use of that information by tech giants. .

But he’s not joking about science: the discovery of a culprit is (in a sense) realistic. And it should be so since then Amy Mainzerchief investigator NASA‘s new ways Asteroid tracking software, he was a production science consultant. In the video, astronomers report their findings Planetary Defense Coordination OfficeWhich, as you can see in the video, is an actual organization run by NASA.

Is the movie realistic? In the past, the Earth was hit by huge asteroids – which is why today there are no giant dinosaurs roaming the planet. It is bombarded every day with tons of dust and meteorites. The Planet Killer is sure to be written in the future (although that happens at most once every 50 million years) – and international governments take it much more seriously than it appears in the movie.

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tam Well tested protocol To report new asteroids and comets, which is what we know about those that have passed close to Earth this month.

There are also plans to do Minimize the potential consequences From an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. They usually rely on the scattering of the asteroid’s path, because it is impossible to try to bring it down at the last moment – it will take a lot of energy. The November launch of NASA’s DART mission, a technical test mission, will help highlight how best to fight asteroids threatening Earth.

But where the “no-search” program affects nerves, there is unpreparedness for an emergency if (when) it eventually occurs and mitigation plans fail. Here I go back to the history of climate change. There is no plan B. In the movie, the motto “Don’t Look” is a denial that a comet is about to destroy the planet – presented as fake news.

I think it was a great movie. It is entertainment. But this is not fake news. We are a global community and we must cooperate.

Written by Monica Grady, Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences, The Open University.

This article was first published in conversation.conversation