tech2 News StaffOct 13, 2016 14:14:54 IST
Conspiracy theorists are spreading panic based on the NASA OSIRIS-REx mission claiming that 1000 asteroids are headed to the earth. Recently, NASA test-fired the thrusters on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to fine tune a trajectory that would allow it to collect and return with samples from the asteroid Bennu. Like many conspiracy theories, this fear has some basis in fact. Bennu is on the list of potentially hazardous asteroids (PHA), and may catastrophically crash into our planet if it is captured by the gravity of the Earth.
The asteroid only has a 1 in 2,700 chance of hitting the Earth, and we will only know if Bennu is a potential threat in the year 2,135. In the year 2,182, the asteroid has a one-in-800 chance of hitting the Earth. The 500 meter wide asteroid orbits the Sun in roughly the same orbit as the Earth, which is what makes it a potential hazard. NASA does maintain a list of asteroids that could potentially reach earth, and this list has 1,735 objects, not just 1000. Nature World News reports that conspiracy theorists are using the OSIRIS-REx mission to Bennu to prove the biblical prophecy of an armageddon where asteroids rain from the skies and wreak destruction.
The OSIRIS-REx mission is actually meant to study the asteroid, and explore the origins of the solar system, as well as life on Earth. The spacecraft will reach the asteroid in the year 2018, and study the physical features and composition of the asteroid for a period of two years. The spacecraft is scheduled to return with samples for scientists on Earth to study by the year 2023. For those interested in keeping a watch of near approaches of asteroids, NASA has a site to monitor upcoming close approaches to the Earth.
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