Thursday, August 4, 2016

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How Worried Should We Be About A Huge Asteroid Hitting Earth?

An asteroid explorer answers 13 questions about scary space rocks.

08/02/2016 05:54 pm ET |

Some media outlets say the asteroid Bennu might be on a collision course with Earth. Others say not to worry.

To learn the truth, The Huffington Post reached out to Dr. Dante Lauretta, professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona and the principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx. That’s the NASA mission scheduled to launch this September with the goal of briefly landing on Bennu in 2018 and returning to Earth in 2023 with samples from its surface.
Here are our questions and Lauretta’s answers, lightly edited:

Is Bennu really on a collision course with Earth? 

Bennu is classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid, or PHA. There is a small (1 in 2,700) chance that Bennu will hit Earth late in the 22nd century. If Bennu did hit Earth, it would release the energy equivalent of 1,450 megatons of TNT, creating an impact crater about 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) in diameter. That’s over 70,000 times more energy than was released by the atomic bomb that fell on Hiroshima.


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