‘Don’t look up’: Is a similar event possible in reality? An astronomer explains it

The hit movie, available on Netflix, shows the end of the world when a comet hits Earth. Scientist Amy Mainzer, and advisor to the film, has analyzed whether this scenario can happen.

Don’t look up the satire of Adam McKay about doomsday, it arrived on Netflix on Christmas Eve. Since then, the film featuring the world’s apocalypse has dominated the top 10 of the streaming platform despite polarized criticism. The film features a large number of Academy Award-winning actors, such as Leonardo Dicaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep. That is why its great success is not surprising. But is this event possible in reality? Dr. Amy Mainzer explains if this scenario could happen in real life.

The cruel portrait of today’s society follows two astronomers navigating America’s tense political and media landscape in an attempt to raise awareness of a comet heading straight for Earth. The world is in danger and is about to disappear, but the future of humanity is in the hands of political decisions.

As many viewers have assumed, and McKay himself has confirmed, the film is a allegory of climate change and the destructive consequences it will have if world leaders do not act swiftly and decisively. To reinforce the message, the director ends the film with humanity’s efforts to stop the comet from failing miserably.


In an interview with Yahoo, the Dra. Amy MainzerAn astronomer who was also an advisor to the hit movie, she weighs in on the likelihood of a comet hitting Earth and wiping out humanity. Fortunately, it appears that while an extinction-level event like the one depicted in the movie is theoretically possible, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

The director of ‘Do not look up’ explains why he opted for that surprising ending

Mainzer is a former research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and is now a professor at the University of Arizona, where she teaches planetary science. His main area of ​​study, of course, are asteroids and comets that have the potential to make a trip to Earth. McKay contacted Dr. Mainzer several years before the project began, and her involvement with the film ranged from costume design to the film’s premise.

“If that kind of thing happened regularly, compared to how long humans have been on the planet, we wouldn’t be here… The last major event was the one that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. So we know that it’s about a very rare event”Mainzer explains in the interview. And adds:

Smaller events can happen more frequently. So we go out to find the objects and try to find out where they are

Although history has shown that extinction-level events are incredibly rare events, Mainzer suggests that extinction-level events are incredibly rare. Smaller comets hitting Earth are much more likely. Although these comets do not destroy humanity, as it happens in Don’t look up, may be cause for concern. Although Mainzer suggests that humanity probably won’t see an extinction-level comet in the near future, it doesn’t rule it out entirely either.


Many viewers have wondered if the six-month time Dr. Mindy gives for the comet to collide with Earth could be a reality. Dr. Mainzer explained that purposely chose a long period comet, a comet that comes from deep space, because the size and speed of such an object could realistically collide with Earth. The terrifying reality behind a six-month period before total annihilation is completely accurate.

According to the astronomer, “sometimes there can be a very short interval between when we find one of these things and when they get closer to the Sun, because they move very fast […] We found the object at the end of March and at the beginning of July it was already making its approach to the Sun. So in this case, six months from discovery to approach or impact is quite realistic for this class of objects“.

Another question that the audience has asked is why a comet was chosen over an asteroid for the apocalypse. Dr. Mainzer explains that the science behind this choice is quite simple, based on the amount of size, speed, and energy it took to create such a devastating event. Comets and asteroids are made of different materials, but comets’ elongated orbits mean that they are moving much faster than asteroids. Not only that, they are almost always larger than asteroids and have a much higher chance of creating an apocalyptic event. Therefore, long-period comets are precisely the objects that scientists monitor in real life.

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Mainzer’s statements reaffirm that an extinction-level comet is highly unlikely to actually impact Earth (at least for a few million years). However, for director McKay, the The real threat is clearly greedy business practices and the inactive world leaders who allow climate change to continue unchecked.