Chances of asteroid Bennu hitting Earth are higher than previously thought – but don’t panic just yet – .

Chances of asteroid Bennu hitting Earth are higher than previously thought – but don’t panic just yet – .

CAP CANAVERAL, Fla. – The good news is that scientists have a better idea of ​​where Asteroid Bennu is located for the next 200 years. The bad news is that space rock has a slightly better chance of hitting Earth than previously thought.

But don’t worry: Scientists reported on Wednesday that the chances are still pretty low that Bennu will hit us in the next century.

“We shouldn’t be too worried about this,” said Davide Farnocchia, a scientist with NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Who was the lead author of the study.

As the odds of a strike have dropped from 1 in 2,700 to 1 in 1,750 over the next century or two, scientists now have a much better idea of ​​Bennu’s trajectory thanks to the Osiris-Rex spacecraft from NASA, according to Farnocchia.

“So I think overall the situation has improved,” he told reporters.

The spacecraft returns to Earth on a long, circular loop after collecting samples from the large rotating pile of rubble from an asteroid, considered one of the two most dangerous known asteroids in our solar system. Samples are expected here in 2023.

Before Osiris-Rex arrived at Bennu in 2018, telescopes provided a solid glimpse of the asteroid, about a third of a mile in diameter. The spacecraft has collected enough data over 2.5 years to help scientists better predict the asteroid’s orbital path in the future.

Their findings – published in the journal Icarus – should also help chart the course of other asteroids and give Earth a better chance to fight if and when another dangerous space rock is heading our way.

Before Osiris-Rex arrived at the scene, scientists estimated the odds of Bennu hitting Earth in the year 2200 to be 1 in 2,700. Now it’s 1 in 1,750 through 2300 The most threatening day is September 24, 2182.

Bennu will have a close encounter with Earth in 2135 when it passes less than half the distance from the Moon. Earth’s gravity could alter its future course and put it on a collision course with Earth in the 2200s – less likely now based on Osiris-Rex observations.

If Bennu crashed into Earth it wouldn’t wipe out life, like a dinosaur, but instead create a crater about 10 to 20 times the size of the asteroid, said Lindley Johnson, an officer of the asteroid. NASA planetary defense. The area of ​​devastation would be much larger: up to 100 times the size of the crater.

If an object Bennu’s size hit the east coast, it “would pretty much devastate things along the coast,” he told reporters.

Scientists are already one step ahead with Bennu, who was discovered in 1999. Finding threatening asteroids ahead of time increases the chances and options for repelling them, Johnson said.

“In a hundred years, who knows what the technology will be? he said.

In November, NASA plans to launch a mission to deflect an asteroid by hitting it. The experimental target will be the moon of a larger space rock.


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