A new report reveals that there is a probability of 1 in 2,700 that the asteroid Bennu, which has been tracked by NASA for nearly 25 years, could impact Earth in the future. Bennu, a near-Earth asteroid, was first discovered in 1999 and has the potential to come close to Earth’s orbit, possibly striking the planet by September 2182, according to the scientific team of OSIRIS-REx.
Bennu makes close approaches to Earth every six years and has already had three close encounters in 1999, 2005, and 2011. Scientists involved in the study, published in ScienceDirect, estimate that the probability of Bennu actually impacting Earth by 2182 is 0.037% or 1 in 2,700.
In October 2020, NASA’s spacecraft OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer, made history by briefly touching the surface of Bennu, collecting a sample, and then propelling itself off the asteroid. This mission marked the first time NASA successfully collected a sample from an asteroid in space.
Astrophysicist Hakeem Oluyesi highlights that the collected sample from Bennu contains pure and unaltered material that can reveal secrets about the origins of our solar system. He adds that there is a possibility of discovering biological molecules or precursor molecules to life.
If Bennu were to collide with Earth, it would release an enormous amount of energy, estimated at 1,200 megatons, which is 24 times more powerful than the most powerful nuclear weapon ever made by humans. In comparison, the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs was equivalent to 10 billion atomic bombs, triggering wildfires, tsunamis, and a dust cloud that blocked the sun.
It is important for scientists to continue monitoring Bennu and improving our understanding of its trajectory to assess the potential threat it poses to Earth. While the chances of an impact in 2182 are relatively low, this highlights the need for ongoing research and the development of strategies to mitigate the risks associated with near-Earth objects.
Sources: ScienceDirect, IFLScience