The chances of one of the most deadly asteroids in the known universe crashing into Earth have increased – but you don’t need to worry about it just yet.
According to a new study by Nasa, there is now a 0.057 per cent chance of the 101955 Bennuasteroid hitting Earth before 2300.
The asteroid, which is about 500 metres wide and could wipe out a city, was first discovered in 1999 due to its orbit often bringing it close to Earth, raising concerns about a potential impact.
Nasa was able to increase the odds of an impact with Bennu after sending its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to retrieve samples from its surface, as well as new precise orbital observations, which allowed scientists to publish a new hazard assessment, published through Icarus.
The new data shows that the chances of a Bennu impact with Earth during the 2100s are now at 1 in 1,750. The odds had previously been 1 in 2,700. Also, the most dangerous date is now said to be September 24, 2182, so don’t make many plans for that day in case you are still around. Bennu is also predicted to travel twice as close to Earth as the Moon at some point in 2135 as it passes through what is known as a “gravitational keyhole.” These are small stretches of space where Earth’s gravitational force can push asteroids into more dangerous trajectories.
Speaking at a teleconference on Wednesday, Davide Farnocchia, a navigation engineer at NASA’s center for near-Earth object studies, said: “Now, we have a much better knowledge of what the pathways of impact can be, and the most significant one would lead to an impact in 2182.
“But we should keep in mind that the impact probability overall is really small. In fact, the overall impact probability is 0.06 per cent, which, put another way, means that there is a 99.4 per cent probability that Bennu is not on an impact trajectory. So, there is no particular reason for concern.”
Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer, added: “The OSIRIS REx mission has provided exquisitely precise data on Bennu’s position and motion through space to a level never captured before on any asteroid. Not only does this allow us to better understand Bennu’s future path and if it could ever be an impact threat to Earth, but it also allows us to test and improve the overall modelling techniques that we can use on all near-Earth asteroids.”
While there is nothing really to worry about, Bennu is still one of the most dangerous objects in space and is only rivalled by 1950 DA, which is double the size and is predicted to have a 0.17 chance of hitting Earth in the year 2880.