Could Bruce Willis save the world from disaster? Er, no, says experts at the University of Leicester
Scientists have come up with some bad news – if a huge asteroid is plummeting towards Earth, we will not be able to stop it.
The Mayan civilisation of Central America predicted the world will end on December 21 this year.
They did not specify how the world will end, but it got experts at the University of Leicester wondering if we had the technology to prevent an asteroid vaporising humanity – as Bruce Willis managed to do in the Hollywood blockbuster Armageddon.
The answer was "no".
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In the 1998 film, Bruce and his team fly to an approaching asteroid the size of Texas, drill a hole in it and drop in a nuclear bomb.
The explosion splits the giant rock in two and nearly everyone lives happily ever after.
Unfortunately for mankind, University of Leicester researchers have calculated that in real life we wouldn't be able to produce a big enough bang.
In fact, the job would require a bomb a billion times more powerful than the biggest nuke ever built.
Student Ben Hall, 22, is one of four authors of a scientific paper called "Could Bruce Willis Save the World?".
He said: "That method wouldn't work with an asteroid the size of the one in the film, although there are still other possibilities – such as attaching rockets to push it to the side – but all the alternatives have problems, too, including getting to it soon enough.
"An asteroid collision is one of the ideas about how the world might end when the Mayan calendar finishes but I don't think many people take it too seriously. It was just a bit of fun."
For anyone who does have serious concerns about an asteroid impact on December 21, Leicester also has another team of astronomers at the Near Earth Object Information Centre, who are able to reassure us that nothing like this is going happen – at least no time soon.
The centre, at the National Space Centre in Leicester, is responsible for informing the Government and public of any threats from outer space.
It uses data from telescopes around the globe and in space. They recently tracked 2002am31, a rock eight times the size of the National Space Centre rocket tower, which passed the Earth on July 22 at a safe distance.
Spokeswoman Malika Andress said: "There isn't anything heading this way this year and, if anyone is worried, they can keep an eye on our website for updates.
"Everything is being monitored closely. The Earth is a giant piece of rock hurtling through space and there are a lot of other rocks out there but if anything is heading towards us we will get plenty of warning. People in Leicester will be the first to know if anything is going to happen."