The global impact distribution of Near-Earth objects
Rumpf et al
Asteroids that could collide with the Earth are listed on the publicly available Near-Earth object (NEO) hazard web sites maintained by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA). The impact probability distribution of 69 potentially threatening NEOs from these lists that produce 261 dynamically distinct impact instances, or Virtual Impactors (VIs), were calculated using the Asteroid Risk Mitigation and Optimization Research (ARMOR) tool in conjunction with OrbFit. ARMOR projected the impact probability of each VI onto the surface of the Earth as a spatial probability distribution. The projection considers orbit solution accuracy and the global impact probability. The method of ARMOR is introduced and the tool is validated against two asteroid-Earth collision cases with objects 2008 TC3 and 2014 AA. In the analysis, the natural distribution of impact corridors is contrasted against the impact probability distribution to evaluate the distributions’ conformity with the uniform impact distribution assumption. The distribution of impact corridors is based on the NEO population and orbital mechanics. The analysis shows that the distribution of impact corridors matches the common assumption of uniform impact distribution and the result extends the evidence base for the uniform assumption from qualitative analysis of historic impact events into the future in a quantitative way. This finding is confirmed in a parallel analysis of impact points belonging to a synthetic population of 10,006 VIs. Taking into account the impact probabilities introduced significant variation into the results and the impact probability distribution, consequently, deviates markedly from uniformity. The concept of impact probabilities is a product of the asteroid observation and orbit determination technique and, thus, represents a man-made component that is largely disconnected from natural processes. It is important to consider impact probabilities because such information represents the best estimate of where an impact might occur.