THE Bennu can be seen every six years from Earth but, in 2135, it’s expected to pass between us and the moon — which could tweak its orbit and set it on a course for us.
NASA scientists have issued a stark warning over an asteroid that could hit the Earth causing “immense suffering and death”.
The space agency is sending a probe to collect rock samples from the asteroid dubbed ‘Bennu’.
Bennu can be seen every six years from Earth – but in 2135 it is expected to pass between us and the Moon.
That could tweak its orbit and set it on a direct course for our planet.
Experts fear that such a change will result in mass destruction, with Nasa investigator Dante Lauretta warning: “It may be destined to cause immense suffering and death.»
The professor of planetary science is leading the mission to collect rock samples from the asteroid, which he says could provide “vital data for future generations”.
The Osiris-Rex probe will arrive in 2018 then spend a year surveying Bennu, which orbits the sun at 63,000mph.
Scientists are hoping that information gathered on the trip will help them to work out how the asteroid’s course is affected by absorbing and radiating sunlight.
The probe will then head back to Earth where it will arrive in 2023, The Sunday Times reported.
Bennu is approximately 500m in diameter, and asteroids of this size would create craters 7 km across and the equivalent of a magnitude 7 earthquake.
In turn that would cause significant damage across an area of 500km, according to Michael Busch, Planetary Astronomer at the SETI Institute.
By comparison, the fictitious asteroid in the Bruce Willis film Armageddon was 600 MILES wide.