Not even Superman could have stopped Russian Meteorite

We still remember that last February 15, 2013, a meteorite hit the Russian Ural's near the city of Chelyabinsk. Several persons were injured, several building were damaged, and services such as internet, mobile, gas or electricity were interrupted  Such event revived speculations about a possible apocalyptic meteorite event. For instance, NASA announced that it has neither the funding to launch an infrared-sensing telescope in space to detect asteroids such as the one that blew up without warning over Russia last month, nor the capability to blast them out of the sky. When asked what would happen if we discovered one three weeks away from an impact with the earth, NASA's administrator Charlie Bolden answered: "The answer to you is, if it's coming in three weeks, pray." 

The other day I found a nice article about a fictional press conference given by Superman, in which he explains why he did nothing about the russian meteorite. I considered it very illustrative about the difficulties of preventing a meteorite hit.

Deviate it towards the Sun? 
First, is important to remember that Scientists could not detect the Russian meteorite because it came out of the daytime sky. Such kind of asteroids are nearly impossible to find ahead of time because telescopes can only spot asteroids during the night. Hence, when the asteroid was detected it would have been impossible even for Superman to deviate it towards the sun. The only 2 possibilities were either slow it down or destroy it. 

Slow it down? 
We must consider that the meteor was clocked at a speed of 40,000 miles per hour. When entering the atmosphere the meteor experiences a kind of crash, since it changes a vacuum environment (space) to  gas fluid environment (atmosphere). In order for an asteroid to slow down, the atmosphere absorbs the asteroid's energy and emits it as heat and light. Attempting to slow it down would have just burned it up anyway. Moreover, it would have absorbed more energy in the same time. Hence, it is reasonable to assume that it would have generated more heat and a brighter explosion. 

Destroy it? 
At the speed the meteorite was going, it contained around 440 kilotons, which is about 20 times the atomic bomb that hit Nagasaki. The atmosphere absorbed most of the meteor's energy, with only the aftermath of the fireball doing damage to Chelyabinsk. Destroying the meteor would have released all his energy at once. That would have been much worse.
For better understanding the possible damage of destroying the meteorite, let's take "The Bluegill Triple Primesh" test explosion of 1962. Such test exploded 410 kilotons at an altitude of 31 miles above the Earth. Nuclear researchers at ground zero could feel the heat on the ground and two of them even got retinal burns Now, considering that when the meteorite exploded it had an altitude of just 15 miles above the Earth (half the altitude of The Bluegill Triple Primesh test), we can imagine what would have happened when exploding a bomb of the same size at only half the altitude above Chelyabinsk. 

Animation 1. Meteorite hits Russia

Additional reading:
Superman Explains Why He Didn’t Destroy the Russian Meteor
Here's Why Astronomers Did Not Detect The Russia Meteor Ahead Of Time
Asteroid heading for New York? You better pray, NASA chief tells US Congress

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