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Q&A Would a huge amount of asteroids hitting Earth change its rotation speed or destroy the planet?

Earth's rotation is slowing down, and in this article Randall Munroe gives some ideas to accelerate the rotation - or at least to keep it from slowing down as quickly. He concludes that the only "s...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by hkotsubo‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by HDE 226868‭

Question asteroids earth
#2: Post edited by user avatar hkotsubo‭ · 2020-07-06T18:49:23Z (over 2 years ago)
  • [Earth's rotation is slowing down](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth%27s_rotation#:~:text=Earth's%20rotation%20is%20slowing%20slightly,is%20adjusted%20by%20leap%20seconds.), and [in this article](https://what-if.xkcd.com/26/) Randall Munroe gives some ideas to accelerate the rotation - or at least to keep it from slowing down as quickly.
  • He concludes that the only "solution" would be to hit Earth with asteroids - **lots** of them. To be more precise, he gives 2 options: one with big asteroids and another with smaller ones.
  • > *To get enough spin, we have to hit the Earth with on the order of a billion liters of rock per second (several times the volumetric discharge rate of the Amazon). This adds up to about one six-mile dinosaur-killing asteroid every couple days.*
  • >
  • > *If asteroid B-612 in The Little Prince is four meters across and made of rock, we’d need an average of around fifty thousand of them to enter the atmosphere each second to keep up the pressure.*
  • I didn't check the math - although I really trust Munroe on these things - but my question is: would this ridiculous amount of asteroids continuously hitting the planet end up destroying it before accelerating its rotation? And when I say "destroy", I'm not talking only about life forms ceasing to exist, but the planet itself exploding into pieces.
  • Or the Earth would just "lose some pieces" but continue to rotate as nothing - or almost nothing - happened?
  • [Earth's rotation is slowing down](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth%27s_rotation#:~:text=Earth's%20rotation%20is%20slowing%20slightly,is%20adjusted%20by%20leap%20seconds.), and [in this article](https://what-if.xkcd.com/26/) Randall Munroe gives some ideas to accelerate the rotation - or at least to keep it from slowing down as quickly.
  • He concludes that the only "solution" would be to hit Earth with asteroids - **lots** of them. He gives 2 options: one with big asteroids and another with smaller ones.
  • > *To get enough spin, we have to hit the Earth with on the order of a billion liters of rock per second (several times the volumetric discharge rate of the Amazon). This adds up to about one six-mile dinosaur-killing asteroid every couple days.*
  • >
  • > *If asteroid B-612 in The Little Prince is four meters across and made of rock, we’d need an average of around fifty thousand of them to enter the atmosphere each second to keep up the pressure.*
  • I didn't check the math - although I really trust Munroe on these things - but my question is: would this ridiculous amount of asteroids continuously hitting the planet end up destroying it before accelerating its rotation? And when I say "destroy", I'm not talking only about life forms ceasing to exist, but the planet itself exploding into pieces.
  • Or would Earth just "lose some pieces" but continue to rotate as nothing - or almost nothing - happened?
#1: Initial revision by user avatar hkotsubo‭ · 2020-07-06T18:35:29Z (over 2 years ago)
[Earth's rotation is slowing down](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth%27s_rotation#:~:text=Earth's%20rotation%20is%20slowing%20slightly,is%20adjusted%20by%20leap%20seconds.), and [in this article](https://what-if.xkcd.com/26/) Randall Munroe gives some ideas to accelerate the rotation - or at least to keep it from slowing down as quickly.

He concludes that the only "solution" would be to hit Earth with asteroids - **lots** of them. To be more precise, he gives 2 options: one with big asteroids and another with smaller ones.

> *To get enough spin, we have to hit the Earth with on the order of a billion liters of rock per second (several times the volumetric discharge rate of the Amazon). This adds up to about one six-mile dinosaur-killing asteroid every couple days.*
> 
> *If asteroid B-612 in The Little Prince is four meters across and made of rock, we’d need an average of around fifty thousand of them to enter the atmosphere each second to keep up the pressure.*

I didn't check the math - although I really trust Munroe on these things - but my question is: would this ridiculous amount of asteroids continuously hitting the planet end up destroying it before accelerating its rotation? And when I say "destroy", I'm not talking only about life forms ceasing to exist, but the planet itself exploding into pieces.

Or the Earth would just "lose some pieces" but continue to rotate as nothing - or almost nothing - happened?