NASA warned that the asteroid known as Bennu has a chance of hitting Earth and destroying a large portion of the planet in the future. According to the space agency, this massive asteroid can cause almost 80 potential impact events on Earth.

Asteroid Bennu, also known as 101955 (1999 RQ36), is currently listed under NASA’s Sentry, which is the agency’s automated impact monitoring system. It regularly maintains a watch list of asteroids that are in danger of colliding with Earth.

According to Sentry, Bennu’s Earth impact could happen sometime between 2175 and 2199. Within this period, the monitoring system detected a total of 78 potential earth impacts by the asteroid.

Aside from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) is also keeping a close eye on Bennu. Like NASA, the ESA also maintains a special list that features asteroids with non-zero impact probabilities on Earth. As indicated in the agency’s Risk List, asteroid Bennu has a chance of colliding with Earth on Sept. 24, 2196.

According to the two agencies’ databases, asteroid Bennu is classified as an Apollo. Like other Apollo asteroids, it has a very wide orbit that occasionally intersects with that of Earth as it goes around the Sun.

Due to its Earth-crossing orbit, Bennu has been labeled as a potentially hazardous asteroid.

“Potentially Hazardous Asteroids are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth,” NASA said in a statement.

“Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance of 0.05 [astronomical units] or less and an absolute magnitude of 22.0 or less are considered [potentially hazardous asteroids],” the agency added.

For NASA and the ESA, Bennu’s natural orbit could one day cause it to collide with Earth. Since the asteroid has a diameter of about 1,608 feet and is known to travel at speeds of 28,000, an impact event caused by Bennu would cause a high level of destruction on the planet.

Although it’s definitely smaller than the mile-wide asteroids that are capable of destroying the entire planet and causing extinction events, it is still big enough to wipe out entire cities.

Bennu Asteroid Bennu is a time capsule, containing the raw ingredients of the solar system. Bennu has settled in a near-Earth orbit. Today, a NASA spacecraft OSIRIS-REx is going to retrieve a sample to learn more about our Solar System’s history. OSIRIRS-REx is a NASA sample return mission to visit Asteroid Bennu. We plan to grab a piece of Bennu, because it’s a time capsule that can tell us about the origins of our planet and our entire solar system. Photo: NASA Goddard