Will 1614-foot asteroid Bennu ever crash into Earth? NASA's OSIRIS-REx craft watching closely

NASA JPL has studied an asteroid named Bennu with the help of its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Will the 1614-foot asteroid Bennu hit the planet? Here’s what NASA has to say about this asteroid.

| Updated on: Sep 09 2022, 17:35 IST
Asteroid fun facts in pics: NASA reveals all you need to know
1/5 Space is full of objects, out of which only a few have been discovered. Asteroids are some of these objects. If you are not aware about the dangerous objects called asteroids, here are some facts you should know. First, did you know that asteroids are sometimes called minor planets? Well, they are. (Pixabay)
2/5 Differences between an Asteroid, Comet, Meteoroid, Meteor and Meteorite: According to the information provided by NASA, Asteroid is a relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the Sun. Comet is a relatively small, at times active, object whose ice can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust and/or gas. Meteoroid is a small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun. Meteor is the light phenomena which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth's atmosphere and vaporizes, in short, a shooting star. While, Meteorite is a meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth's atmosphere and lands upon the Earth's surface. (NASA)
3/5 Asteroid: Size, frequency and impact- More than 100 tons of dust and sand sized particles are bombarded towards Earth everyday, according to NASA. While, about once a year, an automobile-sized asteroid hits Earth's atmosphere, creates an impressive fireball, and burns up before reaching the surface. Every 2,000 years or so, a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage to the area. Only once every few million years, an object large enough to threaten Earth's civilization comes along. Impact craters on Earth, the moon and other planetary bodies are evidence of these occurrences. Space rocks smaller than about 25 meters (about 82 feet) will most likely burn up as they enter the Earth's atmosphere and cause little or no damage. By comparison, asteroids that populate the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and pose no threat to Earth, can be as big as 940 kilometers (about 583 miles) across. (NASA)
4/5 How is an Asteroid Orbit Calculated? An asteroid's orbit is computed by finding the elliptical path about the sun that best fits the available observations of the object. That is, the object's computed path about the sun is adjusted until the predictions of where the asteroid should have appeared in the sky at several observed times match the positions where the object was actually observed to be at those same times. (Pixabay)
5/5 What is NASA doing to find and learn more about potentially hazardous asteroids and comets? NASA has established a Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), managed in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The PDCO ensures the early detection of potentially hazardous objects (PHOs) - asteroids and comets whose orbits are predicted to bring them within 0.05 Astronomical Units of Earth (5 million miles or 8 million kilometers) and of a size large enough to reach Earth's surface - that is, greater than approximately 30 to 50 meters. NASA tracks and characterizes these objects and issues warnings about potential impacts, providing timely and accurate information. NASA also leads the coordination of U.S. Government planning for response to an actual impact threat. (AFP)
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Will the massive Bennu asteroid impact the Earth in the future? Check out what NASA JPL experts have to say about this asteroid. (AP)

Asteroids have been flying closely by Earth for millions of years and some have crashed into it. August alone has witnessed more than 40 asteroids passing by and September is set to continue the pattern as we have already seen more than a dozen asteroids passing by closely. However, all these asteroids are relatively small in size with a width of a couple of hundred feet. Still, NASA has classified all these asteroids as Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) due to the close proximity with which they pass by Earth.

These asteroids, although heading for Earth pass by at a safe distance. That does not mean no asteroid will ever impact the planet. NASA JPL has been observing an asteroid named Bennu which orbits the sun every 1.2 years and makes a relatively close approach to Earth about every six years. The asteroid is absolutely massive in size with a diameter of nearly 1614 feet. The space agency has mapped the trajectory of the Bennu asteroid using the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft up to the year 2135 using 29 radar observations and 478 optical observations of the asteroid, conducted by trackers around the world between September 1999 and January 2011.

According to NASA JPL, the close approach with Earth in the year 2135 will change the asteroid's trajectory a little and could potentially result in an Earth impact between 2175 and 2199. CNEOS has predicted a 0.037 percent chance of this impact, meaning there is a 99.963 probability that the Bennu asteroid will not collide with Earth.

The path of an asteroid usually gets deflected due to its interaction with various forces in the solar system. One of these forces is called Yarkovsky effect which is generated from the heat of the Sun. Steve Chesley, senior research scientist at JPL and study co-investigator explained in a NASA blog, “The Yarkovsky effect will act on all asteroids of all sizes, and while it has been measured for a small fraction of the asteroid population from afar, OSIRIS-REx gave us the first opportunity to measure it in detail as Bennu travelled around the Sun.

“The effect on Bennu is equivalent to the weight of three grapes constantly acting on the asteroid – tiny, yes, but significant when determining Bennu's future impact chances over the decades and centuries to come,” he further explained.

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First Published Date: 09 Sep, 17:35 IST