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What if an asteroid hit Park Hill flats?

A new data visualisation tool lets you choose a place and an asteroid, then sit back and survey the devastation. So what would a Sheffield cataclysm look like?

A map of Sheffield with a large circular crater in the centre
Asteroid Launcher

If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if an asteroid hit Park Hill flats, I have both good and bad news. The good news is that I can tell you, in detail. The bad news is that 7,134,015 people would die.

I know this thanks to Neal Agarwal, the creative coder behind a data visualisation tool called Asteroid Launcher. Pick the place the asteroid will land, its size, speed and the angle of the impact, and it will give you the apocalyptic results. I went with a 500m-diameter asteroid travelling at 17km a second, impacting at 45 degrees. You can also choose what the asteroid is made of – mine was iron.

A yellow and orange visualisation of a fireball over a map of Sheffield
Asteroid Launcher

While you might think the asteroid landing on people would be the main cause of death, but in fact only 239,171 of the seven million deaths would be people vapourised in the crater in my hypothetical Park Hill impact.

The resulting fireball, which would be 15km wide, would cause clothes to catch fire within 62km of the impact and would kill 3.3 million. Buildings within 99km would collapse, the shockwave killing over half a million people, and homes within 48km would be levelled. The wind blast would kill almost three million people.

A map of Britain with a large circle representing the scale of an earthquake
Asteroid Launcher

Thankfully NASA doesn’t anticipate a significant asteroid strike for over 100 years – though there’s nothing quite like visualising a potential horror story to turn it into something to fear. Just ask any Sheffielder who watched Threads growing up.

Agarwal is also responsible for nifty tools like ethical thought experiment game Absurd Trolley Problems and the entertainingly extravagant Spend Bill Gates’ Money.

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