Our future generations might need to look out for a huge asteroid, which has a chance of colliding with the Earth.
In another, say, 200-300 years, asteroid Bennu has a slight chance of striking the earth. This has been published in the journal Icarus by experts from NASA. They sent out satellites on a mission called OSIRIS Rex to observe the asteroid Bennu and return samples from it.
As part of its mission OSIRIS-REx studied the asteroid’s composition, structure, mass, and temperature. The findings say that it may strike the surface of the earth and leave giant craters. However, the chances of the collision are bleak. NASA says that there is a 1 in 1750 chance that the asteroid collides on the Earth’s surface.
The space research organisation has increased the odds of the asteroid smashing into the Earth from 1 in 2700. However, it’s still low and the asteroid may not collide with the Earth at all.
You may wonder that if there are so many asteroids that are near the Earth, what makes Bennu so special?
It’s sheer size! Bennu is one of the biggest asteroids to hover near the Earth. It’s thrice the size of the Statue of Liberty and almost as big as the Empire State Building. Imagine the size of the asteroid! Here is an illustration that will give you some perspective.
Before we delve deeper into what this particular asteroid might do, let’s learn a little more about these celestial bodies. You might have studied about asteroids in your geography lessons: they are small (compared to planets), rocky objects, also called ‘minor planets’ that occupy the region between Mars and Jupiter. Some of them are small and don’t cause any threat to the Earth. Others are hazardous, bigger and might cause significant damage to the planets that they strike.
Talking about Bennu, NASA says that If at all it strikes our planet (which has a very slight probability of happening), it could be catastrophic. Not along the lines of those asteroid attacks that wiped off dinosaurs, but it could cause giant craters and cause damage on a continental level.
In fact, Bennu is one of the two most hazardous asteroids in the solar system.
Bennu was the chosen target partly because its orbit around the Sun is like Earth’s, so the two bodies occasionally approach each other. Thus, NASA’s planetary defenders could also gather a wealth of data about the potential threat that Bennu poses to Earth.
As mentioned earlier, NASA undertook a mission called the OSIRIS Rex, which studied the asteroid Bennu to analyse when it will make its close approach to Earth. The answer is: more than a century from now and more than once. It could brush the surface of the earth in 2135 but not really cause too much damage.
However, experts are predicting that Bennu has a slight chance ( 1 in 1,750) to strike the earth again in the year 2300 and that could be catastrophic.
Before leaving Bennu on May 10, 2021 to give us insights and samples from the asteroid, OSIRIS-REx spent more than two years in close proximity to the asteroid, gathering information about it, while monitoring its spin and the path of its orbital. The spacecraft also scooped up a sample of rock and dust from the asteroid. It will deliver the samples to Earth on September 24, 2023, for further scientific investigation. It means that the probability might change!
Another aspect you might need to watch out for is that although the study claims that it has fewer chances to actually collide with the surface of the earth, that might change because of temperature changes of the asteroid.
In fact, one factor that scientists were particularly concerned about is called the Yarkovsky effect, which is caused by the constant temperature changes that occur as regions of the asteroid get exposed to daylight. This alters the course and speed of the asteroid.
The Yarkovsky effect acting on Bennu is influencing the motion of asteroid Bennu and will impact how it moves in the future. This effect makes the asteroid move faster and it builds over time. So, it becomes very significant by the time you get to 2135 ( when the asteroid might first hit the Earth).
Are there any ways of preventing an asteroid strike with Earth? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Aparna is a mom, singer and dreamer by day and a BoJack Horseman-junkie by night. At BYJU'S, she writes happy stories about edtech and learning for kids. She believes in the power of music, the magic of the universe and a plate of idlis. When not writing or singing, you will find her intensely engaged in conversations about life and the power of words or listening to her favourite song, Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo.
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