Despite its slim 1-in-2,700 chance of impact, greater than a lightning strike's odds by fivefold, NASA scientists foresee a potential future collision with Bennu, which could affect an area the size of Texas.
In 2182, Bennu faces a potential collision course with Earth, as scientists warn of its chance to traverse a "gravity keyhole," which is a celestial pathway, reported The Hill.
In 2135, during its close approach, Bennu could encounter specific "gravity keyholes" in space. According to NASA, these regions, influenced by Earth's gravitational pull, might steer Bennu toward a potential future Earth impact if traversed at certain times.
A new study by the OSIRIS-REx science team suggests Bennu has a 0.037% (1-in-2,700) chance of Earth impact, contingent on a 2135 flyby. If all goes as predicted, Bennu might strike Earth on Sept. 24, 2182, nearly 159 years later.
After seven years of efforts, NASA strives to prevent the colossal asteroid Bennu, named after an Egyptian deity, from colliding with Earth. "We've never modeled an asteroid's trajectory to this precision before," said Davide Farnocchia, the study lead from the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.
"The OSIRIS-REx data gives us so much more precise information; we can test the limits of our models and calculate the future trajectory of Bennu to a very high degree of certainty through 2135," Farnocchia added.
Bennu, a Near-Earth Object (NEO), regularly swings by our planet approximately every six years. It has been under expert scrutiny since its discovery in September 1999.
At one-third of a mile wide (about three city blocks), Bennu could impact an area the size of Texas. Still, it pales compared to the dinosaur-extinction asteroid, a massive six miles wide. If Bennu hit Earth, it would release 1,200 megatons of energy, which is 24 times the energy of most manmade nuclear weapons, according to ABC News.
Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.
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