| USWorld

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Laser system may one day zap asteroids

Email Newsletters

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Los Angeles Times
Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, 8:48 p.m.

Scientists and engineers are looking for ways to head off close calls with asteroids well before they're in a position to do us any harm.

Two California scientists have a new proposal to deploy an array of lasers that could vaporize asteroids from as far away as 93 million miles — the distance between Earth and the sun. Working in synchrony, the lasers could destroy a menacing asteroid outright or at least knock it off course. They call their device Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation, or DE-STAR for short.

“You don't blow up an asteroid like the Death Star in ‘Star Wars,' where you push a button and the planet explodes. You basically take a blowtorch to it in the form of a laser beam, and you begin to evaporate it,” said Philip Lubin, a cosmologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara who's behind the proposal.

“It takes about a few months to evaporate an asteroid the size of a few hundred meters in diameter, which is an asteroid that, if it hit the Earth, would do severe damage. The one that killed the dinosaurs was about 10,000 meters in diameter, or about 6 miles.”

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. Obama: No credible intelligence about terror plot against US
  2. Foreign policy expert: Obama administration should create Syria safe areas
  3. Video of white Chicago patrolman fatally firing on fleeing black youth sparks demonstrations
  4. Self-driving vehicles closer to getting green light as feds ease stance
  5. GOP readies next assault on health care law
  6. Email address gives FBI lead on record theft of user IDs, passwords
  7. House Republicans call for refugee limits in spending bill
  8. Newborn left in manger in N.Y. church, police say
  9. Kentucky Gov. Beshear restores right to vote for thousands of nonviolent felons
  10. Navy seeks secret of invisibility from fish
  11. Scandals leave Oklahomans in dark