A giant 73billion kilogram asteroid is likely to explode if it continues to spin at increasing speeds, astronomers studying data gathered from OSIRIS-REx, NASA's spacecraft have said.
The asteroid, named Bennu for its chocolate creme egg shape, is said to be as big as the Empire State Building and weighs an estimated 73 billion kilograms.
Scientist Daniel Scheeres published a study in Science Advances that states in a million years or less, Bennu may explode.
Scheeres, along with other astronomers, mapped the gravitational field of the asteroid and the pull towards NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft it orbits around.
The asteroid is shaped like a spinning top with a rugged exterior formed by debris floating through space.
Its interior is looser, and filled with less tightly packed rocks, which scientists say puts the rock at risk of separating.
Bennu is also spinning at a much faster rate than it should, a rate which is affected by the Sun.
Heat from the Sun warms the rock’s surface and is absorbed by the asteroid, making the asteroid spin as energy is released.
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If it continues to accelerate, Scheeres’ study suggested the asteroid could explode and tear apart over time.
Scientists believe the asteroid will expose in a million years if it continues to spin itself into destruction.
Scheeres said their team is hoping to find out how this asteroid came about, which they believe can better insight into how other small asteroids change for millions of years.
Study co-author and NASA-JPL scientist Andrew French said” “If you can measure the gravity field with enough precision, that places hard constraints on where the mass is located, even if you cannot see it directly."
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