Hazardous Asteroid Bennu Will Approach Earth before 2300

Photo from NASA

A Hazardous asteroid named Bennu will approach Earth between now and the year 2300. According to NASA, in a study titled “Ephemeris and hazard assessment for near-Earth asteroid (101955) Bennu based on OSIRIS-REx data,” it stated that “NASA researchers used precision-tracking data from the agency’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer(OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft to better understand movements of the potentially hazardous asteroid Bennu through the year 2300, significantly reducing uncertainties related to its future orbit, and improving scientists’ ability to determine the total impact probability and predict orbits of other asteroids.”

This study was published in a journal named “Icarus,” and Kelly Fast, the program manager for the Near-Earth Object Observations Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC said, “NASA’s Planetary Defense mission is to find and monitor asteroids and comets that can come near Earth and may pose a hazard to our planet,” and “We carry out this endeavor through continuing astronomical surveys that collect data to discover previously unknown objects and refine our orbital models for them. The OSIRIS-REx mission has provided an extraordinary opportunity to refine and test these models, helping us better predict where Bennu will be when it makes its close approach to Earth more than a century from now.”

In 2135, asteroid Bennu will make a close approach to Earth but it probably will not be too dangerous to our planet at that time, because during the encountering, Earth’s gravity will be altered.

The total impact of the Bennu asteroid through the year 2300 is about 1 in 1,750 (or 0.057%), and the researchers were able to identify Sept. 24, 2182, as the most significant single date in terms of a potential impact probability of 1 in 2,700 (or about 0.037%). Bennu is one of the two most hazardous asteroids in the solar system with 1950 DA. The Bennu’s chance of hitting Earth is very low respectively.

The OSIRIS Rex spacecraft spent more than two years near the Bennu and it has gathered sources and materials from the Bennu such as its size, shape, mass, the sample of rock, the dust from the asteroid’s surface. The spacecraft composed it while monitoring its spin and orbital trajectory. This spacecraft will deliver to Earth all this information and materials on Sept. 24, 2023, for further investigation.

The Bennu asteroid will give us a tremendous opportunity of seeing how the asteroid’s orbits will evolve and the role of “gravitational keyhole” during its 2135 close approach. This keyhole will be located in space if the Bennu would locate on a path toward a future impact on Earth. if the asteroid were to pass through them at certain times, Earth’s gravitational force will be in effect on the asteroid.

Scientist, Farnocchia and his team will calculate the location of Bennu while it approaches and look to whether it might pass through a gravitational keyhole and evaluated various types of small forces that may affect the asteroid as it orbits the Sun.

When the asteroid spins, the Sun heats the Bennu on the dayside and cools down on the nightside as well. As it cools, the surface releases infrared energy that generates a small amount of thrust on the asteroid. This phenomenon is called the Yarkovsky effect. Over the short timeframe, this thrust is small but over the long period of time, the effect on the asteroid’s position builds up and can play a significant role in the asteroid’s path changing.

“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 traveled around the Sun,” said Steve Chesley, a senior research scientist at JPL and study co-investigator. “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 changes over the decades and centuries to come.” According to NASA.

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