by David Kindy/Smithsonianmag.com
Have important plans for September 24, 2182? Consider rescheduling. That’s the date when a half-mile-wide asteroid could pass close—very close—to Earth.
While the odds are slim, there is a chance that Bennu—currently about 190 million miles away, according to the The Sky Live website—could collide with our planet. Scientists give it a one-in-1,175 (0.0037%) chance, reports Daniel Clery for Science magazine.
“I don’t think we need to do anything about Bennu,” planetary scientist Lindley Johnson of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office says in a press briefing, according to Science.
Unless physics plays a hand, that is. The asteroid’s trajectory could be affected by numerous factors, including another nearby flyby in 2135, reports Nell Greenfieldboyce for NPR. Gravitational and other forces by the sun, Earth and moon could cause an alteration in the flightpath that might steer this “rubble pile” of a flying object—also known as asteroid 101955 Bennu—onto a direct path with us.
“So there is no particular reason for concern,” Davide Farnocchia at the Center for Near Earth Object Studies, part of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, tells NPR. “We have time to keep tracking the asteroid and eventually come to a final answer.”