If Asteroid Bennu hit our planet, it's estimated the kinetic energy of this impact would be equivalent to 1,200 megatons – that's 80,000 times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb.

By Ian Horswill

Posted on June 20, 2019

This is what a 78-billion-kilogram asteroid looks like and why some call it “doomsday”.

Scientists claim Asteroid Bennu has a 1 in 2,700 chance of striking Earth in the next century, between the years 2175 and 2199. It does get close every six years.

If Asteroid Bennu did hit our planet, it is estimated that the kinetic energy of this impact would be equivalent to 1,200 megatons – that’s 80,000 times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb.

NASA‘s first asteroid sampling spacecraft OSIRIS-REx captured the stunning picture when it closer to the asteroid than ever before on June 13.

Asteroid Bennu 2

Bennu’s largest boulder can also be seen protruding from the southern hemisphere. The image was taken from a distance of 690 metres above the asteroid’s surface by NavCam 1, one of three navigation cameras that comprise the spacecraft’s TAGCAMS (the Touch-and-Go Camera System) suite. At this distance, details as small as 0.5 metres across can be resolved in the centre of the image.

It was the second time NASA’s asteroid sampling spacecraft captured the asteroid and the second orbital loop broke the record for the closest distance a spacecraft has orbited a body in the Solar System.

Bennu was discovered on 11 September 1999 during a Near-Earth asteroid survey by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR).

The name Bennu was selected from more than eight thousand student entries from dozens of countries around the world who entered a “Name That Asteroid!” contest run by the University of Arizona, The Planetary Society, and the LINEAR Project in 2012.

Bennu will pass 750,000 km from Earth on 23 September 2060.

In April last year, the B612 Foundation reported: “It’s 100 per cent certain we’ll be hit (by a devastating asteroid), but we’re not 100 per cent certain when.”

NASA’s Earth impact monitoring system has detected an asteroid that has a 1 in 11 million chance of hitting Earth in October. The space agency calculated a total of 165 impact scenarios for the asteroid.

Read next: First picture of a black hole

Read next: What CEOs can learn from space missions

The asteroid, named 2007 FT3, was detected by NASA’s Sentry, an automated system that specifically monitors near-Earth objects that are on potential impact courses with the planet. As explained by NASA, the asteroids listed by Sentry are those that could hit Earth within the next 100 years.

The earliest possible impact event would occur on October 3.

According to NASA’s database, the asteroid has a diameter of 1,115 feet, making it significantly taller than the Eiffel Tower in France. The space agency predicted that it will enter Earth’s atmosphere with a velocity of 45,600 miles per hour.

Given the asteroid’s size and speed, it will release a huge blast energy if it hits Earth. NASA noted that it will produce an energy equivalent to 2.7 million kilotons of TNT upon impact. This amount of energy would make the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II look like fireworks, which only respectively measured 18 and 22 kilotons of TNT.

If 2007 FT3 causes an impact event, it can certainly cause enough blast energy to alter Earth’s environmental condition or wipe out life on the planet.

Even though the asteroid will most likely miss Earth this year, there’s a chance that it might hit the planet in the future. In fact, starting in 2024, the asteroid is expected to have near-collisions with Earth on almost a yearly basis.