Asteroids are always doing this, making a big bluster about how they’ll be swinging thisclose to planet Earth in coming weeks, months, years … who could say exactly? Never the asteroids, which have menaced and then missed us as recently as Election Day 2020, and April before that. Now, the New York Times reports that a big, honking space rock might strike anywhere between now and 2300. That’s a pretty large window to worry about, but the odds of collision currently stand at 1 in 1,750, and do not rise to “.037 percent chance of … being a bad day,” as the Times puts it, until September 2182. Do with this remote possibility what you will.
The earliest moment at which this asteroid will come “pretty close” to Earth is 2135, and “pretty close” in this context means within 125,000 miles. At that point, Earth may well have already ceased to be a habitable planet, at least the way things have been going. So maybe you are wondering: Why should I care? I cannot answer that question for you, but I can tell you why this news matters to me. One, the asteroid’s name is Bennu, a cute and unexpected choice for a hunk of space matter. Two, because Bennu’s width (about a third of a mile) could mean a crater ranging between three to six miles in diameter, with NASA planetary defense officer Lindley Johnson telling the Times: “An object Bennu’s size impacting on the Eastern Seaboard states would pretty much devastate things up and down the coast.” Interesting.
While I would not go so far as to advocate for mass destruction by asteroid, I would humbly ask Bennu to consider speeding it up a little, and setting its target a little closer to (my) home. I have recently received reports that, mere months from now, certain billionaires will be sending billboards into space, apparently guided by the belief that people will lots of pay money to write “DICKS” in the sky. And people totally will, unless Bennu maybe wants to do something about that. Like obliterate Elon Musk’s technology as soon as it goes into orbit, thereby saving humanity from a fate worse than astro death? Considering all the trash we’ve been sending up there lately, we certainly don’t deserve a favor, but maybe Bennu is feeling generous today. Bennu, buddy, come at me, bro.