NASA Asteroid Bennu: How big is the asteroid threat? | Science | News

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’s top scientists have calculated the deep space asteroid could slam into Planet Earth on September 25 2135.

At least half a dozen asteroids skim past Earth during any given month but Bennu’s sheer size has given astronomers true cause for concern.

The monstrous spherical asteroid measures a staggering 492m (1,614 feet) in diameter, according to NASA’s estimates.

Bennu is both larger than the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower and almost matches Malaysia’s Petronas Tower in stature.

An this gigantic would unleash absolute chaos and destruction upon the planet on impact, wiping out life for tens of kilometres, scientists have warned.

Astronomers following Bennu’s trajectory path have calculated potential impact would release “three times more energy than all nuclear weapons detonated throughout history”.

Dante Lauretta, professor of Planetary Science in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, said: “The asteroid mass would hit the surface of the Earth at a velocity of 12.1 km/s (over 27,000 miles per hour).

“The impact would release energy equivalent to 1,450 megatons of TNT.


Asteroid Bennu: The NASA asteroid threat is about 500m in diameter

“For comparison, the fission bombs used in World War II had an energy release of roughly 20 kilotons of TNT each and the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated, the Russian Tsar Bomba, had a yield of 50 megatons.

“The total energy expended during all nuclear testing throughout history is estimated at 510 megatons of TNT.”

The odds of Bennu actually crash landing on Earth are relatively slim – only about one in 2,700 or 0.037 percent.

But the asteroid is a potential Earth Impactor listed on NASA’s Sentry Risk Table.

Whatever the scenario may be, Mr Lauretta assured the effects of impact would be limited in size and scope to a 50km radius.

The impact would release energy equivalent to 1,450 megatons of TNT

Dante Lauretta, University of Arizona

He said: “We’re not talking about an asteroid that could destroy Earth. We’re nowhere near that kind of energy for impact.”

Anyone caught within the immediate blast zone would be incredibly unlikely to survive but hundreds of kilometres outwards locals would barely register a tremor beneath their feet.

The asteroid is simply not big enough to cause an extinction level event and pales in comparison to the asteroid which is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs.

Asteroid Bennu: NASA asteroid threatNASA

Asteroid Bennu: NASA will study the rogue asteroid with the OSIRIS-REx space probe

Asteroid Bennu: NASA asteroid threatNASA

Asteroid Bennu: NASA believed the monstrous space rock is rich in Carbon

Scientists estimate the asteroid which killed the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago was anywhere between 10km to 15km in diameter.

However very little is still known about the interstellar Bennu.

Bennu orbits the sun roughly every 436 days and crosses paths with Earth every six years or so.

But all of this could soon change when NASA’s OSIRIS-ReX (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) probe lands on the asteroid.

OSIRIS-ReX will make its approach to Bennu in August this year before landing in December.

The goal of the mission is to study Bennu’s origin and composition.

NASA said: “Measurements taken from telescopes indicate Bennu is carbon-rich.

“This is important because primitive asteroids like these may contain volatiles and organic molecules that could trace the origins of life on Earth and the potential for life elsewhere.”

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