NASA scientists have predicted that there is a possibility that a massive asteroid they have been tracking will crash into Earth in the year 2182, potentially devastating an area the size of Texas.
Bennu, a near-Earth object (NEO), orbits Earth approximately every six years and has been on the space agency’s radar since 1999, when it was first discovered.
There have been three close encounters with Bennu in 1999, 2005 and 2011, scientists said.
On September 25, 2135, Bennu will make a close flyby of Earth and have a minuscule chance of passing through a “gravitational keyhole” that would send the space rock on a collision course with the planet in 2182, 159 years away. years. .
A paper from the OSIRIS-REx science team gives Bennu only a 1 in 2,700 (or 0.037%) chance of impacting Earth on September 24, 2182.
This image of Bennu was created using observations made by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which studied the asteroid in close proximity for more than two years. NASA/Goddard/Uni Arizona/SWNS
Scientists have been practicing recovering the spacecraft when it returns to Earth on Sunday. AFP via Getty Images
The asteroid impact, which is about a third of a mile wide, could devastate a huge area of Earth’s surface and release the energy of about 22 atomic bombs, according to Earth.com.
The explosion would still be just a fraction of the impact of the massive asteroid that is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, and was estimated to be about 6 miles wide.
OSIRIS-REx, short for Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer, briefly landed a spacecraft on Bennu and collected about 2 pounds of rock and soil samples in 2020.
Team members monitor capsule operations during NASA’s first major asteroid sample recovery trial for its OSIRIS-REx in June. AFP via Getty Images
The first asteroid sample collected is expected to land in Utah on Sunday, according to ABC News.
Astrophysicist Hakeem Oluyesi told the outlet that the completion of the 7-year mission will change what people know about the origins of our solar system.
“This is pure, uncontaminated material that reveals primitive secrets of the solar system. A risky discovery would be to find biological molecules or even life precursor molecules,” Oluyesi said.