NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission will not only capture beautiful photographs of the asteroid Bennu, but will also help scientists to find out whether one day threatens the world.
There are many reasons to examine asteroids. They can be potential mines for valuable resources, such as water and heavy elements, and contain clues that we can try to find out how they are in the early days of the Solar System. But also, the big things that collide with the Earth may have some disastrous consequences. So scientists are interested in that.
The Bennu is an asteroid with a diameter of 1600 meters, located in its orbit near the Earth. NASA mission OSIRIS-REx commissioned the study, started in September 2016 and reached its target on Monday. The spacecraft carries five vehicles: one camera set, one LIDAR system (like a radar, but a laser instead of radio waves) and three spectrometers that measure different wavelengths to determine the composition of the asteroid.
Bennu is a particularly important target when it comes to our own health. Every six years, it is relatively close to the Earth ((close “in cosmic terms, but far from any other measure). The models show that during the close approximations between 2175 and 2196, 1 & 2 39; This is still incredibly small (99.963% chance of a household), but Bennu is a big rock – too weak to be ignored when it comes to civilization.
Why aren't astronomers sure we're safe? There are many forces at risk, and minor differences can change these rates. During some of the approaches of the asteroid, the gravity of the Earth will give him a nudge that can carry him to a collision course. Also, according to the Jet Propulsion Lab press release, Yarkovsky has the effect: uneven heating in the body so light can cause changes in orbit. It is unclear where Bennu will go after the 2135.
The telescopes on OSIRIS-REx and the Earth will continue to characterize the asteroid, follow its path, and determine how the gravity and Yarkovsky effect will affect its trajectory. According to the press release, the mission will produce trajectories that are 60 times more accurate than today's predictions.
So what happens if Bennu becomes a threat? Well, we don't have to worry about it personally, because the odds are going to be great, you'il be dead. Your children will probably be dead (American life expectancy is decreasing, so don't say we're sure we'll live longer in the future). But researchers are working on a few solutions. A task called the Double Asteroid Routing Test will attempt to strike a spaceship in an asteroid to cause a trajectory to change. Maybe we can do the asteroids. Or, if we take enough lead time, maybe we can paint on one side to change the way Yarkovsky absorbs the solar radiation by using its effect to our advantage.
There is a lot of data to get before Bennu knows what to do and what other interesting science to do. But I know that Bennu is not an asteroid to worry about. Asteroids should Worries are those that have not yet been identified.[NASA JPL]