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.
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:
- 14Stephen Voss
- 13Richard Inman
- 12Rick Whitacre
- 11Tommy Richardson
- 10Nicholas Roemmelt
- 9Philippe Jacquot
- 8Ivan Eder
- 7Giles Rocholl
- 6Sean Goebel
- 5Lee Cook
- 4Katherine Young
- 3Rune EngebÃ¸
- 2Melanie Thorne
- 1Michael JÃ¤eger