Scientists at NASA are closely monitoring an asteroid that could potentially reel towards Earth as it nears orbit. The incoming asteroid called Bennu would have catastrophic effects should it hit Earth, reports showed.
NASA reported that the asteroid is just 85,000 light years away at its closest distance from Earth. Even at this distance, it would mean that it is 53,000 miles closer than the distance between Earth and Moon.
Its low density is indicative that it is mainly composed of carbon clumped together. NASA noted that it is relatively less solid than other asteroids and comets flying around the Earth’s orbit. But still, its collision with Earth would still be devastating.
Will it hit Earth? The probability of the asteroid hitting the planet is slim, with 1-in-2,700 chance. Once it happens, it would be catastrophic. NASA noted that they are not taking any chances, and they have to do something to avoid such.
In fact, NASA is sending a mission to Bennu to fetch rocks and other materials to better understand the asteroid. The mission will board the spacecraft OSIRIS-Rex ahead of the expected rendezvous in 2018. The mission was launched on September 18, 2016.
Catastrophic Event Awaits
As reported by NBC News, astronomer Daniel Scheeres explained one of the goals of the mission. The team must gather as much information as possible from Bennu. They hope that with the wealth of information, they could come up with an accurate computation of the possibility of Bennu hitting the Earth’s surface.
“After the mission, we should be able to update all these impact probabilities, and hopefully it will go down. Just by testing the theory and validating it with more precise measurements, that can help all of our other predictions of the Yarkovsky effect for all other asteroids,” Scheeres was quoted as saying by NBC News.
The University of Colorado astronomer heads the team tasked to study Bennu and other asteroids in the mission. If Bennu hits Earth, it could create a crater of about three miles wide and 1,500 feet deep.