Fear of asteroid hitting Earth persists
• Scientist says impact with 500m-wide rock could cause ‘immense suffering’
• NASA probe to gather, analyse samples, next planet-hunter to look for life near stars just outside solar system
• Conspiracy theorists predict doomsday caused by ‘second coming of Jesus Christ’, magnetic polar flip
An asteroid set to narrowly miss Earth could cause ‘immense suffering and death’ years later if its orbit is changed when it passes dangerously near to our planet.
The space rock, called Bennu, crosses Earth’s orbit once every six years and is set to pass between the moon and our planet in 2135.
Scientists are worried the 500-metre wide asteroid’s orbit could be tweaked by Earth’s gravity as it passes by, causing it to smash into our planet later in the century.
“That 2135 fly-by is going to tweak Bennu’s orbit, potentially putting it on course for the Earth later that century,” Dante Lauretta, professor of planetary science at Arizona University, United States (U.S.), told the Sunday Times. “It may be destined to cause immense suffering and death,” he added.
It is hard for astronomers to predict how the close run-in between Earth and the moon will affect Bennu’s orbit, but Lauretta estimates that it could shift it onto a collision course with our planet. “We estimate the chance of impact at about one in 2,700 between 2175 and 2196,” he said.
Bennu travels around the sun at an average speed of 63,000mph and an impact with the Earth would be similar to setting off 3billion tonnes of explosives.
United States National Aeronautic Space Agency (NASA) is so concerned by Bennu that it is sending a probe to the asteroid’s surface to analyse it.
The OSRIS-REx spacecraft is set to launch in September and land on the asteroid in 2018. It will spend a year on the surface of Bennu collecting samples of rock before heading back to Earth in 2023.
If successful, the mission will be the first to visit an asteroid and return to Earth.
To capture samples on the surface, the craft will hover over a specific area and will lower itself at a painstaking 10 centimeters per second. It will only be in contact with the surface for five seconds as it vacuums up the targeted area.
The mission will also be used to study the building blocks of life by analyzing the minerals beneath Bennu’s surface.
OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission designed to return a piece of an asteroid to Earth. The spacecraft is scheduled to launch on September 8 at 7:05 p.m. EST aboard an Atlas V rocket. The University of Arizona-led mission has a 34-day launch window beginning on that date.
Meanwhile, the search for alien life on distant planets is hotting up, and NASA now wants to focus closer to home.
From next year, one of NASA’s exoplanet surveys will look at the planets orbiting stars just outside our solar system.
The search will only look for planets within hundreds of light-years or less, looking out in all directions from our solar system.
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will launch in 2017 or 2018. TESS will be able to learn the sizes of the planets it sees and how long it takes them to complete an orbit. TESS will survey most of the sky by segmenting it into 26 different segments known as ‘tiles’. It will look at least 200,000 stars during the two years of its spaceflight mission, resulting in the discovery of thousands of new exoplanets. While the search for transiting exoplanets is the primary goal of the mission, TESS will also make observations of other astrophysical objects through the Guest Investigator (GI) Programme.
Meanwhile, in September, the world was warned apocalypse was coming when a rare ‘super blood moon eclipse’ filled the night sky.
Luckily for us, the world continued as it was. However, a new YouTube video claims that the world will come to its catastrophic end today.
End Times Prophecies say that doomsday will occur as ‘the second coming of Jesus Christ coincides with a magnetic polar flip.’
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