'Would be a global catastrophe': The asteroid that could end Earth

A large asteroid capable of wiping out planet Earth has become the focus of a new study set to be launched by NASA.

Astronomers are planning to get close enough to collect a sample of rock from the asteroid named ‘Bennu’, which measures about 487 metres in diameter.

Bennu crosses the Earth’s orbit once every six years and inches closer to our planet each year, according to The Times.

In 2135, the rock will pass between the moon and Earth, and while it may seem like a fair distance, it’s really on a hair’s breadth in space terms.

Arizona University’s Professor of Planetary Science Dante Lauretta said Earth’s gravity could change the asteroid’s course.

The asteroid is mapped to travel between Earth and the moon in 2135.

“That 2135 fly-by is going to tweak Bennu’s orbit, potentially putting it on course for the Earth later that century,” Lauretta said.

"It may be destined to cause immense suffering and death," he added.

Bennu travels around the sun at a speed of 101,000kph.

While the chance of a collision with our planet is small, the impact would be a “global catastrophe” according to experts, likening it to three billion tonnes of explosives 200 times the strength of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, The Daily Telegraph reported.

NASA’s Osiris-Rex mission will begin in September and spend almost two years in space, preparing to align with Bennu in August 2018.