NASA: At a press conference convened by NASA last week, an important discovery was announced that will affect all Earth’s inhabitants, but more than 160 years from now.
According to tracking data from the OSIRIS-REx space mission, the potentially dangerous asteroid Bennu has an “extremely small” probability of hitting our planet in the year 2182.
The Origins space probe, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) was launched in 2016 to better understand the movements of the so-called “Asteroid of the Apocalypse”. After landing on space rock in October 2020, the spacecraft returned to Earth in May this year, after spending more than two years collecting information on the celestial body’s size, shape, mass, composition and orbital spin. The OSIRIS-REx will only arrive back in September 2023.
The result of these observations, published in a study in the journal Icarus, admits that there is a tiny possibility that the huge rock 560 meters in diameter could pass through a “gravitational keyhole”. This location in Earth’s gravity field could draw the asteroid onto a collision course with our planet in 2182.
The Risks of a Bennu Collision with Earth
Bennu travels at a speed of an incredible 100,000 kilometers per hour, meaning that an eventual impact with the Earth’s surface could release energy equivalent to that of 70,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs, instantly opening a crater five kilometers in diameter, according to estimates from NASA.
When the study began to be carried out, the cumulative chance of an impact between Bennu and Earth was only 0.037%, and that the occurrence would be around 150 years, in the time interval between 2175 and 2196, almost in the 20th century. With the new data provided by OSIRIS-REx, the probability of a collision rises to 0.057% by the year 2300, a still low but verifiable value on September 24, 2182 if the worst-case scenario occurs.
Just in case, a NASA mission called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is designed to go to the asteroid Didymos, with a diameter of 780 meters and a secondary body (moonlet) of 160 meters. The objective of this mission is to deliberately collide with the moonlet at a speed of 6.6 km/s, to see if the shock will change the original orbit of this rock, and if we have the technology to deflect dangerous asteroids.