NASA has just updated its predictions regarding the chances of the Bennu asteroid impacting our planet.
The agency even did the maths to determine the precise date when an impact is most probable – September 24, 2182.
However, the situation is not as grim as it may sound.
If a huge asteroid were to collide with our planet, the results might be catastrophic.
Therefore, NASA made the wise decision of establishing the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) five years ago to detect and keep track of possibly dangerous asteroids and elaborate a plan to prevent impacts as much as possible.
Currently, the PDCO is carefully watching the evolution of two possibly threatening space rocks, Bennu being one of them.
Now, for a bit of background – Bennu was discovered in 1999. At the moment, it is located about 200 million years away from Earth, but it will get closer and closer over time.
Estimates suggest that it will get within 125,000 miles in 2135, roughly half the distance between Earth and its moon.
Bennu has a considerable size, as it is roughly one-third of a mile wide, and if it were to impact our planet, it could lead to severe destruction.
Lindley Johnson, the PDCO Director, stated in an interview with the New York Times:
“[A] half-kilometer-sized object is going to create a crater that’s at least five kilometers in diameter, and it can be as much as 10 kilometers in diameter.”
According to Johnson, the area of devastation can be way bigger than that, sometimes even reaching 100 times the size of the crater.
“So an object Bennu’s size impacting on the Eastern Seaboard states would pretty much devastate things up and down the coast,” he added.
To better observe and track Bennu’s evolution, NASA launched the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft in 2016.
For two years, the craft analyzed Bennu up close, gathering data from its orbit and even landing on the asteroid to obtain rock samples, the first mission of that kind for NASA.
Unfortunately, the samples will reach NASA’s labs only in 2023, as the craft is still making its way home.