General Question

fireside's avatar

How do you think people would react if the Earth were hit by a comet?

Asked by fireside (12344points) March 3rd, 2009
27 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

I was just reading this article about a comet that flew close to us this week and was wondering what the collective thought might happen if a comet were to strike the planet.

This one wasn’t a giant that would have wiped out life on this planet or anything like that so how do you think people would react? Would it be like a tsunami or a major earthquake where there is a big outpouring of support for the victims and affected area followed by a quick return to life as usual for most?

Would people demand more preparation from astral dangers than is currently offered?

The article mentions that in 1908 80 million trees were flattened over 800 square miles.

What if this happened in the next 3–4 years?
Would all the end times people say that this was a sign of confirmed prophecy?

Ultimately, I’m not worried about it because there’s nothing I can do. But the reactions were something I wondered about.

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eponymoushipster's avatar

uhm, probably no reaction, because a lot of us would die instantly. So probably “NOOOOoooo….!” and then splat.

with advanced warning, i’d like to think we’d send bruce willis and a fat guy into space to blow the sucker up.

Mr_M's avatar

“Oh $hit! What the hell was that?!!!”

aprilsimnel's avatar

omigawdlookitthaSIZEuhtha- FWOOOOOOOOM!

cak's avatar

@aprilsimnel- that has got to bet the best run-on word, ever!

cak (15863points)“Great Answer” (0points)
SeventhSense's avatar

I think we would do what we always do and that is rally to the cause and help out. I think an interesting scenario would be multiple areas of the world all experiencing it simultaneously. How would we cope if we were all experiencing trauma. Either way we would survive.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@SeventhSense thanks to bruce willis and the fat guy.

LouisianaGirl's avatar

we would all just stand there looking at it like deer caught in headlights

fireside's avatar

@eponymoushipster – and no thanks to that crazy steve buscemi

marinelife's avatar

Events like the 1908 one in Siberia are estimated to occur every 300 years. It depends where it lands. It’s a big world.

onesecondregrets's avatar

Run for your liveeees, before I kill againnn!

Okay sorry that’s what popped into my head immediately after I read the question to myself. Hahaha, I’m such a dork.
WTF movie is that from anyways? I can’t remember for the life of me right now.

Honestly though, yes I do think it would be like any other natural disaster because that’s kind of what that situation is- it’s just not a “normal” one, persay.

They would definitely demand more preparation. The only reason we aren’t all comet-worried now is because, well, when was the last time one hitting Earth has been reported? Too long ago for people to see it as a danger.

And no, people would still hold an ignorant eye.

Dr_C's avatar

a little something like flaming death followed immediately by a giant cosmic WTF?!?!?!?!?!

SeventhSense's avatar

of course. without bruce willis there is no future

btko's avatar

It all depends on where it hits. It would have a higher percentage of hitting water but even if it’s over land there are other things to consider.

The event in 1908 is quite interesting actually because it didn’t impact the ground. I actually went there in 2003 on an expedition to get to the epicentre of the destruction. The comet or asteroid didn’t even make it to the ground, there is no crater. It broke up in the atmosphere with a huge force, but it only flattened and burned the surrounding area – there was no impact crater. I did see some evidence of the event, but after nearly 90 years it’s completely regenerated Boreal forest.

So my point, it depends if it actually makes contact with the earth or not. The Evenkia (Siberia) event in 1908 wasn’t that destructive because it didn’t impact, in contrast the impact that hit Earth 65 million years ago was so destructive not only because of it’s size but also that it’s impact was so violent that flaming molten rock flew around the world burning the majority of the forests to the ground.

From all of that smoke in the atmosphere from the worldwide fires along with the millions of tonnes of dust from the impact the sun was blocked out for possibly years.

What would we do?

Some would pray to their God or gods.
Some would wish they had one.

Some would fight for their lives.
Some would give up.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@cak – I just thought, You know there’s going to be those people staying out to look at it. I’ve seen footage of people during the Boxing Day tsunami who were, like, “Oh, hey! Let’s see what’s happening at the beach!” and got their foolish selves swept away. :P

discover's avatar

Everyone will start assessing why they are living, where they would go after they die. They would realize that life is short, and some problems are not as big as they seem….........

SeventhSense's avatar

Steve buscemi the greatest thing since marty feldman. No Grave’s disease but some serious bulging eyes.

Dr_C's avatar

@btko that was a very thorough and well thought out answer… although the concept of a comet coming within the atmosphere and not actually impacting earth is a trully interesting new thought stream i’d LOVE to learn about (not being sarcastic by the way… completely honest)... the basic precept of the question was actual earth impact…. but back to your comment.. do you have any specific literature i could reffer to to learn a bit more about the specific events you mentioned?

marinelife's avatar

Here is some and an excerpt:

“More evidence supporting a comet came to light in 1962 when technicians discovered microscopic pellets of magnetite and silicate globules, thought to be extraterrestrial, in soil samples from the Tunguska explosion site. A double spherule consisting of a magnetite pellet inside a larger silicate shell is unique to this event and thought to be the result of “rapid condensation of incandescent gas upon cooling” (Fesenkov 1966).
The final piece of evidence for the Tunguska comet explains physical observations satisfactorily. According to Whipple’s model described above, the comet probably exploded prior to impact with evaporation of the components thereby leaving no remnant. By comparing the records of air waves from various sources, Ben-Menahem (1975) deduced that the height above ground where the explosion occurred was 7.5 km. There appear to have been three radiant centers made by fallen trees, according to Fesenkov (1966), which would indicate multiple explosions. F.J.W. Whipple (1930) noted that the air wave recorded on the microbarographs appears to indicate two types of waves; one generated by penetration of the object into the atmosphere, and the other generated by the explosion or explosions.”

Jack79's avatar

I think people would react more or less like they did in 2004. They’d probably support the victims, there’d be all sorts of charity concerts etc

If we knew it was coming, there’d be widespread panic, people would buy everything off the shelves and lock themselves up in basements (I actually saw this happen right after Czernobyl blew up). Everyone would evacuate the area, and even areas outside the danger zone. And others would stay there, like that guy who insisted on being burnt in his home when Mt.Helen erupted. And yes, TV evangelists and other false prophets would make big bucks out of it, just like they always do.

wundayatta's avatar

Obviously, it depends on the size of the comet and the location of the hit. If it was out in the middle of nowhere, and it were the size of the Siberia event, it probably wouldn’t be that big a deal. If it hit over some major city, there would be a lot of damage and a lot of aid provided. It would severely impact the economy. If it were big enough to hit the earth and throw a lot of material into the air, it would be completely disastrous for locals, and could potentially cool down the entire earth for any period of time from a few months to decades.

I think humans would pick up, clean up as best they can, and start to rebuild when and where they could. There might be large migrations of people. Some countries might be inundated. It would take time for refugees to distribute themselves around the world. Still, if it is at all possible, humans will do what they have to do to survive, or die trying.

Blobman's avatar

with even less space to rule, the survivors would probably start a war over the remaining territory.

btko's avatar

@Dr_C I was actually going to point you to the wikipedia page on the Tuguska-Evenkia event, it seems to be a nicely detailed page on the theories and facts. Actually Just reading it and it says new research suggests that a nearby lake could be from a fragment that did manage to impact Earth.

Tunguska Event on Wikipedia

I find it really fascinating, and it’s a beautiful area to travel to if you want to test your mettle.

It’s also worth noting that Nikola Tesla, made a small claim in the responsibility for the event. I think I read that he mentions testing his Doom’s Day machine, but it was trying to hit a target in the Arctic and overshot – hitting Siberia.

dalton's avatar

You mean the ones left alive? Or the Zombies and Vampires?

fireside's avatar

@dalton – I was thinking more of the people who ere still around. You know, the ones who would have to fight the zombies and vampires.

dalton's avatar


Suddenly no electricity. No microwave cell phones. Many would be hopelessly lost. Those with generators from their trucks would soon be out of electricity when all the fuel has dried up.

There would be many very unhappy campers over this…

mattbrowne's avatar

A lot depends on the lead time, which in many cases will be rather short. With luck it could be a lot longer (there’s the NEO project). Then there’s the aspect of a precise forecast where the comet will hit, which also poses a great challenge. We would have to deal with probabilities. So when there’s a high probabilty of a hit in the north Atlantic ocean we can try to evacuate the coastal areas of the eastern US and western Europe and Africa.

If it’s about a comet the size of 10 km and more, we’d be dealing with an extinction level event (like what happened 65 million years ago) which could still mean a few humans will survive. The problem is we can’t run away, no matter where we live on the Earth. Very likely the global rentry of small to mid-size chunks of matter will raise the temperatures to a point that almost everything will burn. Every forest in the world and every building. The only way to survive this is to go underground (which some mammals did at the time of the dinosaurs’ demise). We need to build a lot of caves capable of storing supplies that last at least several months, better a couple of years. When the fires above ground go out ,there will be a freezing period similar to a nuclear or a volcanic winter. But the dust will settle eventually. Will humanity preserve civilization and technology? Or will we get thrown back into a new Stone Age? Now that’s an interesting question too!

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