An international team of astronomers has announced the discovery of a huge asteroid whose orbit intersects with that of the earth, creating a small possibility of a catastrophic collision in a distant future.
The asteroid, of 1.5 kilometers wide, named 2022 AP7, was discovered in an area where it is particularly difficult to detect objects due to the Sunshine.
He was found using high-tech instruments in the Victor M. Blanco telescope, in Chile, originally developed to study dark matter, and the results of the research were published in the scientific journal ‘The astronomical magazine’.
«2022 AP7 intersects Earth’s orbit, making it a potentially dangerous asteroidbut it is not currently on a trajectory that would cause it to collide with Earth, either now or in the future,» said the lead author of the finding, astronomer Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science.
The potential threat comes from the fact that, like any object in orbit, its trajectory will be slowly modified by the innumerable gravitational forces. Forecasts are then difficult to make in the longer term.
The US-funded research group, NOIRLab, which operates multiple observatories, described the asteroid as «the largest potentially dangerous object for Earth that has been discovered in the last eight years.»
The impact, unlikely, would be devastating.
It takes 2022 AP7 five years to go around the Sun in its current orbit, and its closest point to Earth remains several million kilometers.
Although the risk is very small, a collision of an asteroid of that size «it would have a devastating impact on life as we know it,» Sheppard says. He explains that the dust that would rise into the air would have a huge cooling effect, causing a extinction event the likes of which have not been seen on Earth in millions of years.»
None of the approximately 30,000 asteroids of all sizes that have been classified as «Near Earth Objects» (NEOs) threaten the earth for the next 100 years.
Hidden in the glare of the sun
According to Sheppard, there are «between 20 and 50 huge NEOs yet to be found,» but the most are in orbits located in the glare of the sun.»
In preparation for the future discovery of a more threatening object, NASA conducted a test mission in late September in which a spacecraft collided with an asteroid, proving that it is possible to change its trajectory.
Another asteroid passed ‘close’ to Earth on Monday
The announcement of the discovery of the new asteroid came one day after an asteroid classified as NEO, objects close to Earth, and as PHA, potentially dangerous, passed «close» -in astronomical terms- to Earth: 2.3 million kilometers.
known as 2022 RM4, This asteroid was identified for the first time on September 12 and has an estimated diameter of between 330 and 740 meters, according to data from CNEOS, the Center for the Study of Near-Earth Objects, of the US space agency NASA.