Asteroid Bennu is less dangerous than expected: when it will approach Earth

The celestial body will approach our planet in 2135. Nasa researchers, led by Italian Davide Farnocchia, have recalculated the probability of impact, which is expected to be 0.057% between now and 2300.

The probability that the asteroid Bennu will hit Earth in the next 300 years is much lower than previously predicted. Researchers from Nasa's Near-Earth Object (Neo) Study Center, led by Italian Davide Farnocchia, recalculated the data and revealed the new results in a study published in the journal Icarus. The space body will approach our planet in 2135, but the probability of its impact between now and 2300 is 0.057%, or 1 in 1,750. Although the risk of Bennu hitting Earth is very low, it is still one of the two most dangerous asteroids known in the Solar System, along with 1950 DA.

New calculations on the approach and danger of the asteroid Bennu

The celestial body became known after the close encounter with the probe Osiris-Rex. Thanks to mathematical models and data from the Deep Space network, scholars were able to reduce uncertainties about its orbit and determine what is the probability of its impact with the Earth. Sept. 24, 2182, was given as the most likely date for a potential impact, with a chance still as low as 1 in 2,700. "We have never modeled the trajectory of an asteroid with this much precision before," Farnocchia said in a note.

In 2135, asteroid Bennu will come very close to Earth and, on that occasion, it will not pose a danger to our planet, but scientists will have the opportunity to better study its trajectory, in order to predict how the gravitational force of the globe could alter its orbit, affecting the possible future risk of an impact with our planet.

Asteroid Bennu has been studied and observed closely for about two years by the probe Osiris-Rex. The encounter between the body and the probe was last May 10. During this time, samples and information on its size, shape, mass and composition were collected and its direction and trajectory was also monitored. The approximately 60 grams of samples collected have been secured in a capsule that will release from the probe once it arrives near Earth. It is scheduled to land on our planet on Sept. 24, 2023.

Italy's Farnocchia's team evaluated the various types of forces that can affect the asteroid's orbit as it revolves around the Sun to calculate where it will be when it is closest to Earth in 2135. "The orbital data collected with Osiris-Rex - commented Dante Lauretta, scientific manager of the mission - helped us to better calculate the chances of Bennu's impact in the coming years and the potentially dangerous asteroids."

Regarding asteroid impacts on Earth in the past, however, a new study overturns the theory regarding the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Stefania Bernardini