Asteroid Bennu Might Hit Earth, But It Won’t Destroy It

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#Asteroid #NasaAsteroid Bennu Might Hit Earth, But It Won’t Destroy It : By now, it’s likely that you’ve heard about NASA’s plans to send the unmanned Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft on Sept. 8 to collect rock samples from Bennu, an asteroid estimated to measure 1,614 feet.

And if that’s the case, then you’ve also likely heard reports about the asteroid having the potential to hit Earth and end all life here as we know it. Well, as it turns out, that isn’t quite true. Yes, there is a chance that the asteroid will hit Earth in the last quarter of the 22nd century (a 0.037 chance to be exact), but even if it does, mission officials noted that Bennu isn’t close to being large enough to be an existential threat to the planet.

“We’re not talking about an asteroid that could destroy the Earth,” said OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta, of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. “We’re not anywhere near that kind of energy for an impact.”

What Is Bennu?

Bennu, classified as a potentially dangerous asteroid, was discovered in 1999 and named after an Egyptian mythological bird by a North Carolina third grader who won an asteroid-naming contest. As its classification might suggest, it is a prime example of a near-Earth object (NEO) — bodies in the Solar System whose orbit’s bring them close to Earth.

Bennu crosses the Earth’s orbit every six years and it gets closer every time. In fact, during a flyby in 2135, the asteroid could hit a special orbit-altering “keyhole” that could send it on a collision course with Earth later in the century. Interestingly enough, NASA’s mission has little to do with this less-than-likely collision.