Suppose there was a race of aliens who had created engines for there spaceships that could operate at any speed under light, and Hulls strong enough to withstand the crushing pressure of earths core several magnitudes over along with heat. These aliens are very arrogant and do not care about physical restraints and often fly down to planets with their very un-aerodynamically shaped ships and travel at amazing speeds causing extreme drag on the ship, but their engines are so powerful and their hulls so strong that they give no notice to this and just proceed faster

The question

What would be the impact of the surrounding area of (lets just say earth) if these aliens decided to fly past a city or a neighborhood with complete disregard of the hazardous effects of the atmospheric drag on their ships?

-Assume the ship is a 200 foot cube

-Assume that the ship is flying at about the height of 2722 feet or lower

-Assume the ship is a cube or an even more un-aerodynamic shape

-Assume that the ship is traveling at at least re-entry speed of the space shuttle, you can also assume they can travel at much greater speeds than that in the atmosphere


2 Answers 2


Ironically, this would not be all that unusual. When you say they travel at the re-entry speed of the space shuttle, that's hypersonic: 17500 mph. At sea level, that's mach 22.

At those speeds, the most unimaginably perfect aerodynamic structure is not aerodynamic at all. You're shoving air out of your way faster than aerodynamics can try to attain equilibrium.

The result would be a gigantic sonic boom, shattering windows everywhere. The strength of it would really depend on how serious they are about powering through things.

Of course, if you're really trying to be pedantic, we could consider the case where the cube is flying face-first through the air at hypersonic speeds, and consider what would happen to the air. Air which is caught up by this monstrosity would push forward a shockwave in front of it. This shockwave will build up until it is as "aerodynamic" as any hypersonic wave can be.


I guess the effect is somewhere between breaking glass (at the low end), to flattening hundreds of square miles (at the higher end), comparable to a large atomic bomb. For further reading see e.g.:

I assume that these are faster than re-entry speed of the space shuttle (since they were already moving faster than orbital speed when they hit the atmosphere). Other interesting effects include,

The light from the meteor was brighter than the Sun, visible up to 100 km away.

Some eyewitnesses also felt intense heat from the fireball.

Wikipedia also says, of the Tunguska event,

Meteoroids enter Earth's atmosphere from outer space every day, travelling at a speed of at least 11 km/s (7 mi/s).

Models published in 1993 suggested that the stony body would have been about 60 metres (200 ft) across

Blast damage is due to its disintegrating:

Their models show that when the forces opposing a body's descent become greater than the cohesive force holding it together, it blows apart, releasing nearly all its energy at once. The result is no crater, with damage distributed over a fairly wide radius, and all of the damage resulting from the thermal energy released in the blast.

But it happened much higher than the "2722 feet or lower" you're asking about:

The leading scientific explanation for the explosion is the air burst of an asteroid 6–10 km (4–6 mi) above Earth's surface.

So I'd still expect a good deal of damage when it's 10 times closer to the ground than that, even if it doesn't disintegrate.

The Chelyabinsk meteor "was an asteroid that measured about 17 to 20 metres across".


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