Obliterate your hometown with this morbidly informative asteroid simulator

Asteroid impact in florida
(Image credit: Neal Agarwal)

How are you today? Pretty relaxed? Mostly comfortable? Not thinking about the fact that there are a few million asteroids whizzing around our solar system that would, were they to collide with planet Earth, cause a global catastrophe and potentially wipe out nearly all life, and a few billion more nearby space rocks that would at the very least cause massive localized destruction and death?

Great. Glad to hear it. But since you're probably thinking about asteroids now, why not completely horrify yourself by finding out just how destructive and deadly one would be if it landed in your hometown. Or for that matter, anywhere on Earth. 

Asteroid Launcher is a nifty browser tool that invites you to pick a spot anywhere on Earth, drop asteroids of various sizes and varieties and speeds on it, and then feel your eyes widen as it details just how many people would be horribly killed and in what manner they would perish. Because it's not just people in the impact zone that will be completely vaporized, it's all the other stuff that happens afterwards, like the massive resulting fireball, the devastating shockwave, the winds that reach several thousand miles per hour, and the resulting earthquakes. All those morbid yet fascinating details, and the resulting deaths, are cleanly laid out for you to absorb.

For instance, I dropped an 2,500 foot diameter asteroid composed of carbon on the small city I live closest to, which created a 5.7 mile-wide crater and vaporized 84,951 people. The site tells me an impact of this size happens to earth roughly every 200,000 years (I don't really want to check how long it's been since the last one). My home is well outside the impact zone, but then I scroll down to the first side-effect of a giant hunk of carbon hitting the planet at 38,000 miles per hour: the immense fireball, which would flash-fry another 1.3 million people. 

For those not immediately turned to ash, another half-million people would suffer third degree burns (and presumably die a bit later in agony) and a million more would receive second degree burns. (I am horrified to see I'm within the "clothes catch on fire" radius, so for safety's sake I am now removing my clothes.) The shockwave, meanwhile, would kill nearly a million more, buildings within 70 miles would be flattened, plus anyone within 40 miles would have their lungs damaged and their eardrums ruptured. Onto the winds, which would feel like being in a tornado for anyone within 60 miles, and the earthquake, which would be felt 150 miles away and kill thousands more.

This is just from a single 2,500 foot asteroid, but you can use Asteroid Launcher to make your own asteroid much bigger (or smaller), have it be composed of stone, gold, or iron, and drop it anywhere on the map you want. You can even change the speed and angle of impact. Have… fun?

Asteroid Launcher is the work of coder Neal Agarwal. If you enjoy witnessing the devastation of a huge space rock landing on Monte Carlo, Disney World, or downtown Chicago, Agarwal has created all sorts of cool browser-based tools and games, like Ten Years Ago (which shows you what the internet looked like a decade ago), Baby Map (a country flashes each time a baby is born in it), The Auction Game (guess how much various works of art sold for) and lots more.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.