Asteroid Impact Animations

Scott Manley

You might have heard about a couple of big movies about asteroids which are heading towards the cinemas this summer. Great, finally my science gets recognised as a good subject for a real disaster movie.

I'm not going to take sides about which movie is the best but having seen the trailers I was prompted to try and produce a more accurate image of what an asteroid impact might look like. The trailer for 'Deep Impact' shows a very impressive impact, presumably using the latest, cutting edge Hollywood special effects. But using what Hollywood probably thought looked good everything happens about 100 times too fast.

Also recently there has been the 'scare' regarding the close approach of 1997XF11 in 2028 so I wanted to do something similar to what might happen if it really did hit - I wanted a 1 mile object, travelling at about 18 kilometers per second on impact.

Here I present an ongoing effort to make something a little more realistic using a cutting edge OS (Linux, as used in 'Titanic' - it's nice to know I had a hand in making that film ;-) a cutting edge free raytracer (povray) and some other bits and bobs.

The Making Of

Part 1 - The Asteroid

Part 2 - Falling through space

Part 3 - More Falling Through Space

Stills from the sequence.

The Animation

Part 1 - Flypast (4.6MB mpeg)

Part 2 - Sunset (594K mpeg)

Part 3 - Impact Viewed from 30 Miles (2.2M mpeg)

Other animations by Scott Manley

Comet fly past (1.8M mpeg)

Through the tail of a comet (3.3M mpeg)

Comet rotating (1.0M mpeg)

Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt fly through (3.8M mpeg)

Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt Objects (12M mpeg)

Interception of a comet (3.3M mpeg)

Interceptor design (1.5M mpeg)

Interceptor in flight (4.1M mpeg)

Jupiter fly past (962K mpeg)

The inner Solar System in 2007

The discovery of asteroids from 1800-2000

The discovery of asteroids from 1980-2010

Rotating asteroid (254K mpeg)

Cometary orbit, 1 (1.3M mpeg)

Cometary orbit, 2 (1.6M mpeg)

Saturn and Titan (789K mpeg)

Binary stars (597K mpeg)

Last Revised: 2010 September 2nd