31
$\begingroup$

A time traveler reporter team wants to film the meteorite impact that led to the extinction of dinosaurs. They are thinking to teleport somewhere on Earth surface 30 minutes before the impact and to leave a few minutes after. Is it possible to find a safe enough location on Earth from where to shoot the film or is it really too dangerous ?

$\endgroup$
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ If they can calculate impact time to exact minutes, and know exact POI and time travel I think they will be safe no matter where they will be. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Oct 26 '18 at 11:54
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @SZCZERZOKŁY Within reason. They might want to avoid the Yucatán Peninsula. $\endgroup$ – Ray Oct 26 '18 at 16:42
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ There's an approximately 50% chance that the impact happened at night. $\endgroup$ – gerrit Oct 26 '18 at 17:05
  • 21
    $\begingroup$ You're thinking too small. Put some GoPro's ON the meteor! $\endgroup$ – GrandmasterB Oct 26 '18 at 18:01
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ Why not just film from space? It will probably be a better picture too. $\endgroup$ – Tyler S. Loeper Oct 26 '18 at 19:22
41
$\begingroup$

This is the Tsar Bomba detonation seen from approximately 161 km away:

Oh the humanity

I took it from Wikipedia, which also has this to say about how far destruction went:

The bomb was attached to an 800-kilogram parachute, which gave the release and observer planes time to fly about 45 kilometres (28 mi) away from ground zero, giving them a 50 percent chance of survival. When detonation occurred, the Tu-95V dropped one kilometre in the air because of the shock wave but was able to recover and land safely.

...

All buildings in the village of Severny (both wooden and brick), located 55 km (34 mi) from ground zero within the Sukhoy Nos test range, were destroyed. In districts hundreds of kilometres from ground zero, wooden houses were destroyed, stone ones lost their roofs, windows, doors and radio communications were interrupted for almost one hour. One participant in the test saw a bright flash through dark goggles and felt the effects of a thermal pulse even at a distance of 270 kilometres (170 mi). The heat from the explosion could have caused third-degree burns 100 km (62 mi) away from ground zero. A shock wave was observed in the air at Dikson settlement 700 km (430 mi) away; window panes were partially broken for distances up to 900 kilometres (560 mi).

This is the blast radius of that bomb in a simulation tool, hitting exactly where the Chicxulub asteroid hit:

Boom!

Zoom in onto the little red marker.

This is a map from some scientists at Imperial College London, estimating how far impact ejecta flew off after the meteor impact:

Really big boom!

Source

And I think most of that was going at hypersonic speed. You'd need to have it way below your horizon to be safe. There is also the shockwaves traveling through the crust, which did travel much faster than sound (in air) as well, and probably went around the world more than once.

But hey, if you can travel back in time, you can send in multiple satellites in low orbit and try for a few composite photos. Then use them for frames in a video. Or do a flyby video of the blast, using a perspective like the one the IIS uses for filming the Earth.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, the NukeMap site seems to have a limit of 10^5 kilotons. We need 2.39 x 10^10 kilotons for the Chixulub impactor. $\endgroup$ – Ray Oct 26 '18 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ You can “easily” take a video from geostationary orbit. $\endgroup$ – gerrit Oct 26 '18 at 17:05
25
$\begingroup$

Why not film it from space?

I mean, you have a time travel device able to send a team of reporters including their equipment several million years into the past, I'm sure it could transport a small spacecraft or at least high altitude balloon as well. The time machine itself could even function as spacecraft, if it was transported into space above earth with the necessary speed to achieve stable orbit.

In an event like a huge meteor impact, the safest place (where you can still see the impact) is outside of the atmosphere. You might also want to be able to manoeuvre or jump some seconds through time to avoid smaller meteorites and debris ejected from earth.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Geostationary orbit should be safe enough. $\endgroup$ – gerrit Oct 26 '18 at 17:06
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ For an event like this one, I would take an idea from Douglas Adams -- film the event while in orbit around a different planet. $\endgroup$ – Codes with Hammer Oct 26 '18 at 19:04
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @CodeswithHammer Too boring. The masses want to see someones face directly in front of the action, debries flying by and the reporter shouting "Oh my God! Jeff, did you film THAT?!?" $\endgroup$ – Elmy Oct 26 '18 at 19:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Elmy: Yes it's boring, but it's also safe. (And I would love to be the reporter in your comment! But I want to return home too.) $\endgroup$ – Codes with Hammer Oct 26 '18 at 19:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Unmanned remote cameras? If you can strap a goPro on a quadrocopter, why not strap a goPro on a quadrocopter? $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Oct 27 '18 at 2:53
10
$\begingroup$

Why risk being there?

Set up automatic recording stations, heavily anchored and pointed at the impact site - protected with a thick titanium shell and an artificial sapphire lens, and equipped with a very powerful radio transponder. (e.g. strong enough to be illegal on grounds of interfering with other electronic signals in the modern era)

Then travel to a day or two after the impact and use the transponder to track down your recorders.

$\endgroup$
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ i like this idea, but even better if you got all the timing down, throw a couple of overhead satellites, stream the data directly up and back live. if the cameras are destroyed you still have the footage. (and you can also film overhead at the same time) $\endgroup$ – J.Doe Oct 26 '18 at 15:15
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Your equipment will be smashed and/or disintegrated by forces greater than millions of nukes blowing up at point blank range. And after that they will be buried under thousands of tons of rock. This is not practical. $\endgroup$ – Renan Oct 26 '18 at 15:23
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Renan Set the equipment up at a very large distance from the impact zone, and use a powerful zoom lens. Yucatán is fairly flat, so you can probably manage 160km with ease. Suitable shaping of the equipment - e.g. using a variation on Busemann's Biplane to reduce the shockwave to manageable levels - provides further protection, and "buried under rock" was accounted for in the high-power transponder and using strongest known materials for casing. It might take you a very long time to retrieve it, but that won't impact your airing date $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Oct 26 '18 at 16:18
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @Renan Heck, if you're that worried then just use a fibre-optic cable to store the data on a buried server 6,000 miles away - that way it outraces the shockwave anyway $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Oct 26 '18 at 16:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal, 160 km puts you inside the fireball of the impact, facing a radiant flux 6000 times that of the Sun. If you survive that, you will in turn be hit by a Mercalli XI seismic shockwave, buried under about 130 meters of debris, and finally hit by a 12 MPa atmospheric shockwave. The good news is that you're outside the crater itself -- but not by much. $\endgroup$ – Mark Oct 26 '18 at 23:29
9
$\begingroup$

As Jay Melosh points out here, the fireball will incinerate everything within a 1000 mile radius (which is the distance from where the fireball is above the horizon). The temperature of the fireball is higher than that of the Sun's surface and it will appear much larger in the sky than the Sun, reaching a height of 200 km, so the radiant energy flux will be much higher than that from the Sun.

The safe distance from the impact site is then at least about 1600 km. But then you can't see the asteroid anymore when it dips below 200 km altitude, so you can't even see it enter the atmosphere.

We tend to underestimate the radiant flux of fires. We intuitively think that at a large distance we're going to be safe, while what matters is the solid angle subtended by the fire. A large gas fire killed a few people in Belgium in their cars who were driving on a highway. The highway looked safe, the fire was at some distance from it, but the radiant heat from the fire caused the cars to erupt in flames.

Another example is the Piper Alpha disaster where a gas fire led to a massive fireball:

The heat generated was so intense that a helicopter could only circle at a perimeter of one mile, the tongues of flame extending hundreds of feet above the rotor blades.

$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

Absolutely. First, calculate a safe distance at various times during and after the explosion. It's an asteroid / meteorite, not a nuke, so there won't be some of the radiative effects to worry about. At t=0 there will be some safe distance to observe. As time progresses, the effect of the shockwave and ejecta will increase this distance substantially. But, you've got a time machine so presumably you've also got a space machine! You can pop in shortly before impact, such as when the asteroid enters the atmosphere, and capture video as the safe zone expands outward until just before it reaches the camera, then travel in time and space to a new location further away, repeating as needed.

For added safety, send probes to various points in spacetime to verify your calculations and determine exactly how much time you can spend at various spots. You might even consider having multiple vantage points on the surface, with your crew being further away and popping in automated recording drones at closer ranges. You could even sacrifice a few units streaming video wirelessly as the shockwave reaches them, or even go back in time and retrieve them afterwards. You've got a time machine! If anything goes wrong, have a team on standby ready to fix things.

(Note: I'm not sure how far the "reality check" tag goes on a question involving time travel!)

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This plan runs the risk of collisions with other time travelers and their probes. $\endgroup$ – Codes with Hammer Oct 26 '18 at 19:07
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I quite like this answer, as it actually uses the time machine beyond simply getting there once. $\endgroup$ – Gassa Oct 26 '18 at 20:26
3
$\begingroup$

Depending on your particular time travel paradigm: absolutely.

Let’s say you get to play fast and loose with paradoxes. Let’s further say you can build some very robust ‘camera drones’. Finally: let’s assume that a computer can control the time travel and wrap its processors around the various paradoxes you can set up. At this point filming anything anywhere at any time becomes trivially simple.

Rather than expecting your drone to survive the impact event instead all you need is for it to survive long enough to transmit a single frame back to you, then you can ‘recall’ the drone by never sending it in the first place (don’t overthink this bit, it’s a blatant abuse of paradoxes) and jump it to 1/26th of a second later. Rinse and repeat (preferably with a computer doing the co-ordination), and eventually you have a full film of the explosion from within the blast. Or outside the blast. Or both: you have a time travel machine and computers! Nowhere is safe from your journalistic prowess.

Basically: if you’re alright abusing paradox mechanics and you choose the right time travel paradigm then anything is possible.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Radiant energy from the incoming meteor (it isn't a meteorite yet as it hasn't landed) would be so intensely bright that it would ignite everything combustible within line of sight. This would make it so that the only "safe" place "on Earth" would be over the horizon and unable to "see" the incoming strike.

Debris thrown up from the impact would have reached space, making low earth orbits fatally unsafe.

My recommendation: geosynchronous orbit.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Have you tried filming it from the moon? I do not know the exact timing of the meteorite strike, so it's possible the strike is not in the line of sight from the moon at the moment of impact. The impact has to occur between moonrise and moonset, locally, in order for this vantage point to work.

And you need a really good telephoto lens because you are very far away. But at least you are at a safe distance, and you don't have to build a spacecraft, although you need a lunar habitat.

$\endgroup$

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.