If the thought of an extinction-level asteroid hitting Earth keeps you awake at night, then NASA has brought you relatively good news: the chance of the asteroid Bennu hitting Earth is higher than previously thought. above, but may not be high enough. for insomnia. This is partly because we are getting better and better at discovering and calculating asteroid trajectories, and because NASA will soon test technology that can transfer threatening asteroids decades before impact.

This week, scientists published in the journal Icarus the latest estimates related to the trajectory of this particular asteroid of interest, Bennu. Bennu estimates that the probability of hitting Earth before 2300 is now 1 in 1750, slightly higher than 1 in 2700 before, but still very low. NASA discovered Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid about 500 meters in diameter in 1999, and has been tracking it ever since. In fact, it is one of the two most dangerous asteroids known in our solar system, although the probability of it hitting the Earth is still very low.
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However, the news about the updated estimate is not interesting because the probability is modified, but because the technology used to calculate it is considered to be the most accurate estimate of the future path of an asteroid ever.
Using NASA’s deep space network and state-of-the-art computer models, the researchers were able to further minimize any uncertainty about Bennu thanks to observations made by NASA’s OSIRISREx spacecraft, which is now under study and returned to Earth Endeavor closely.

“We are carrying out this work through ongoing astronomical research that collects data to discover previously unknown objects and improve our orbital models,” said Kelly Faster, the project manager of the Near-Earth Observation Program at the headquarters, from NASA in Washington. “The OSIRISREx mission provides an extraordinary opportunity to improve and test these models, helping us to better predict where Bennu will approach the Earth in more than a century.
As Sharon previously reported, the OSIRISREx spacecraft has also become a In the headlines of Bennu’s collection of samples, scientists believe that there may be water on its surface early in its history. All of these are part of NASA’s Planetary Defense Team, whose sole purpose is to discover and monitor asteroids and comets that may pose a threat to the Earth.
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The data collected by OSIRISREx gives researchers the opportunity to test their model and calculate the time when Bennu is most likely to hit the earth. In fact, OSIRISREx data allows researchers to “test the limits of our model and calculate Bennu’s future trajectory with a high degree of certainty until 2135,” said Davide Farnocchia, head of research at the Center for Astronomical Research. ). , A sentence. “We have never modeled the trajectories of asteroids with this accuracy before.”
Specifically, the researchers estimate that September 24, 2182, will be the single most important date in terms of potential impact. The probability is 0.037%. Dr. Edlu, executive director of the Asteroid Research Institute, said that although the possibility is very low that no one is still alive at the time, it is precisely because we have followed him closely that Bennu will not pose a threat to the Earth. . Lu is most concerned about asteroids that are not within NASA’s radar range.
“Most of the asteroids in our solar system could do enormous damage if they hit Earth,” Lu said. “These asteroids are big enough to destroy a city once they hit, but about 99% of them are not zero tracking data.

Lu compares Bennu tracking to hurricane tracking, because these models are somewhat similar under changing conditions. Just as great progress has been made in weather forecasting, astronomical advances in recent years, including new telescopes and related missions, such as the current Japanese Space Agency probe to explore the asteroid Ryugu, are preparing for further measurements. precise. follow-up. Generally speaking, it is well known that asteroids are difficult to track.

“They are difficult to track because they orbit the sun like the earth … They may be far away from the earth, and they are small and dark,” Lu said. But the problem behind tracking is not just seeing them, but seeing them often so that you can accurately determine the trajectory. ”
Scientist The technology is already being tested, which can basically push potentially dangerous asteroids away from the earth. The mission, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California sometime after November 24, 2021. In space, the spacecraft is a joint project of NASA and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. It will fly for ten months to reach the Didymos asteroid system, and then the spacecraft will crash into the small satellite of Didymos asteroid Dimorphos To change its orbital path.
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Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) DART research team co-leader Andy Rivkin (Andy Rivkin) said: “DART will change the orbital velocity of Dimorphos, the velocity is slightly less than every millimeter per second”. “This doesn’t seem like a big change, but compared to the average speed of Dimorphos around Didymos, it’s easy to measure.”
Rifkin said that if a real-life emergency occurs in the future, scientists can “change the speed.” from the asteroid slightly. ”
” But our best message is to tap lightly if possible decades in advance to prevent Earth from hitting, rather than pressing hard at the last minute, “Rifkin told Sharon. After
, the European Space Agency’s HERA mission will conduct follow-up observations to investigate DART collisions and turn this experiment into a repeatable planetary defense strategy.
“Through these missions, we can better understand how to protect humans from future asteroid impacts, “said Danica Remy, president of the B612 Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to protect the earth from asteroid impact.

 

But what about those pesky, unidentified asteroids that have escaped observations?

“The best thing the public can do right now is to advocate for increasing asteroid discovery rates and to provide funding for asteroid discovery and deflecting programs,” Remy added.

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