01/08/2016 11:22 BST

NASA Probe To Investigate Asteroid That Could Eventually Hit Earth

This asteroid is fascinating, but potentially deadly.

NASA is sending a probe to an asteroid that could one day hit Earth.

Bennu is a remarkable object because it is both the most suitable asteroid we have for exploration and yet in less than a century, could also provide our downfall.

Elenarts via Getty Images

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta confirmed that its close orbit also made it potentially dangerous.

You see in 2135 its believed that Bannu will finally pass between the Earth and the moon.

This entanglement with both objects and their respective gravitational fields will have a definite impact on the asteroid.

“That 2135 fly-by is going to tweak Bennu’s orbit, potentially putting it on course for the Earth later that century,” explains Lauretta.

This is a problem, Bennu is 500m across and travels through space at an eye-watering 63,000mph.

If it were to ever strike the Earth the impact wouldn’t result an extinction event but it would cause an enormous amount of damage to the local and surrounding area similar to that of a nuclear weapon.


For now, NASA is simply looking to learn as much as it can about the ball of rock which passes our planet every six years.

Carl Hergenrother, staff scientist at Arizona University has high hopes for Bennu:

“We hope that Bennu is what we would call a time capsule, that it hasn’t changed much over the history of the solar system and will show what materials looked like in the very early days of solar system.”

Astronomy Photographer of the Year Shortlist 2016:

  • 14
    Stephen Voss
    Auroral Nuggets
  • 13
    Richard Inman
    Antarctic Space Station
  • 12
    Rick Whitacre
    Between the Rocks
  • 11
    Tommy Richardson
    Crystal Brilliance
  • 10
    Nicholas Roemmelt
    Frozen Giant
  • 9
    Philippe Jacquot
    ISS under Venus and the Moon
  • 8
    Ivan Eder
    M8 Lagoon Nebula
  • 7
    Giles Rocholl
    The northern lights illuminate the lagoon at Jokulsarlon, Iceland photo tour, February 2016
  • 6
    Sean Goebel
    Parallel Mountains
  • 5
    Lee Cook
  • 4
    Katherine Young
    Rise Lunation
  • 3
    Rune Engebø
    Seven Magic Points
  • 2
    Melanie Thorne
    The Diamond Ring
  • 1
    Michael Jäeger
    The Disconnection Event