‘Planetkiller’ asteroid that could pose a risk to Earth found
A “planet killer” asteroid that could one day intersect Earth has been seen by astronomers in the glare of the sun, according to a new study.
Three previously unknown near-Earth asteroids (NEA) were discovered in the interior of our solar system, and one of them is the largest potentially dangerous object found in the past eight years, according to findings published in The Astronomical Magazine.
“Our twilight survey is scouring the area within the orbits of Earth and Venus in search of asteroids,” said the paper’s lead author and astronomer Scott Sheppard in a statement. NOIR Lab press release the findings announced Monday. “So far we have found two large near-Earth asteroids with a diameter of about 1 kilometer, a size we call planet killers.
One of the asteroids, named 2022 AP7, is nearly a mile wide and could cross Earth’s path in the future, the press release said. While the exact path is unclear, the asteroid will remain “far away from Earth” for now, Sheppard said. according to cnn.
Sheppard said an asteroid located one kilometer from Earth — that’s 0.6 miles — or larger “would have a devastating impact on life as we know it,” according to the CNN report.
According to CNN, the planet would be cooled for years by dust and pollutants in the atmosphere that would prevent sunlight from hitting the planet’s surface.
“It would be a mass extinction event like nothing seen on Earth in millions of years,” Sheppard reportedly said.
Sheppard told the New York Times, “This is what we call a planet killer. If it hits the earth, it would cause worldwide destruction. It would be very bad for life as we know it.”
But planetary scientist Tracy Becker, who was not involved in the study, said there is an “extremely small chance” of it affecting Earth any time soon, according to the Times.
The other two asteroids, named 2021 LJ4 and 2021 PH27, orbit safely within Earth’s orbit, according to NOIR Lab.
The asteroids in this area are difficult to spot because they are located between Earth and Venus, where the sun’s glare hides them, NOIR Lab said. Astronomers only have 10-minute windows at night to look at the area as they battle the sun’s bright background.
“There are probably only a few NEAs of similar size left, and these large undiscovered asteroids probably have orbits that keep them within the orbits of Earth and Venus most of the time,” Sheppard said in the release. “Only about 25 asteroids completely orbiting Earth’s orbit have been discovered so far because of the difficulty of observing the sun’s glare up close.”
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