New York 'destroyed by asteroid' in international simulation

Astronomers and engineers have failed to save New York from a fiery destruction - good thing it was just a simulation.

Many of the world's top brains gathered in the US this week for the 2019 IAA Planetary Defence Conference, part of which was to discuss how to handle an incoming asteroid, Armageddon-style.

Around 200 astronomers, engineers and emergency response specialists took part in an exercise to see how they'd react to an existential threat to the Earth.

According to the simulation, the fictional asteroid initially had a 1 percent chance of striking Denver, Colorado, in the year 2027. Further measurements boosted that probability to 100 percent, so the world powers decided to try and knock it off course.

They succeeded, to a degree - impactors smashed into the rock in 2024, but an 80m-wide piece of it broke off, headed straight for New York.

Much like what might happen in real-life, a plan to nuke it out of existence failed due to political disagreements, and on day four of the conference - 2027 in the scenario - it was confirmed the asteroid would strike New York's Central Park.

"The small asteroid will enter Earth's atmosphere at 19km/s on April 29," a fictional statement said, "producing a large fireball... and predicted to release five to 20 megatons of energy."

That's about 20,000 times bigger than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in WWII.

On the final day of the conference, participants "discussed the financial, economical, and human consequences of an impact over a large, densely populated area like New York City", according to NASA.

"Bringing together the disaster management community and the scientific community is critical to preparing for a potential asteroid impact in the future," said Leviticus Lewis of the Response Operations Division for FEMA.

In a legal debate on the final day, it was reportedly determined the US would be financially and legally liable for the damage, having been the country that launched the failed deflector.

"This exercise is valuable in that it continues the work currently in progress to identify key questions and issues for this low probability but high consequence scenario."

"This exercise will help us develop more effective communications with each other and with our governments," NASA planetary defence officer Lindley Johnson said last week.

Previous drills at IAA Planetary Defence Conferences have seen Dhaka and the French Riviera destroyed. In 2017 they managed to save Tokyo.

At the next simulation - 2021's conference in Vienna - a European target is expected to be in the firing line.