Astronomers have discovered three asteroids close to Earth, two of which pose a potential threat as “planet killers” due to their larger and dangerous size, but don’t worry, says a NASA expert, they are not expected to harm us.
According to the results published in the Astronomical Journal on Monday, the three asteroids – belonging to a group found in the orbits of Earth and Venus – were previously undetectable through a telescope due to the glare and brightness of the Sun.
However, an international space team of astronomers waited until sunset at an observatory in Chile to examine the asteroids using the dark-energy camera from the 4-meter Victor M Blanco Telescope, according to the National Science Foundation NOIRLab.
Researchers said the largest asteroid is the most dangerous thing that causes great danger to Earth in the past eight years. One asteroid, called 2022 AP7, is just under a mile wide but has an orbit that could reach Earth’s path in the distant future. The timeline is uncertain, however, according to the journal’s findings.
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The researchers say that two other asteroids, 2021 LJ4 and 2021 PH27, pose a lower risk of collision with Earth.
“Our aurora survey roams the region within the orbits of Earth and Venus in search of asteroids,” study lead author Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Earth and Planetary Laboratory at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. . “So far we have found two large asteroids near Earth that are about one kilometer in diameter, a size we call planetary killers.”
Scientists determined from the study that an asteroid likely to cross Earth’s orbit would currently remain far from Earth, largely because it would be obscured by the Sun since the timing of the Earth’s orbit crossing would be when Earth is on the other side of the Sun.
In the event that an asteroid half a mile long did make contact with Earth, the consequences on the planet could be “devastating,” according to Sheppard, due to the impact of pollutants on the atmosphere.
“It would be a mass extinction event that we haven’t seen on Earth in millions of years,” Sheppard said.
NASA expert: The threat of an asteroid collision with Earth is “not dangerous”
While observed asteroids can have devastating effects on plants, don’t assume they will actually collide with Earth, said Paul Chodas, director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, who was not involved in the study.
“We know this asteroid is not dangerous,” Chodas told USA TODAY. “It’s still so far away from Earth, sort of enclosed in a habitation that it actually makes it one of the most distant asteroids that we classify as dangerous.”
The center tracks all space objects that transit or come close to Earth’s orbit around the Sun. More than 30,000 asteroids have been discovered near Earth, but 857 of them are just over half a mile wide, according to NASA. According to the center’s database, only asteroid 2022 AP7 is expected to approach Mars and Jupiter in the next 145 years.
Chodas said the asteroid’s ability to cause destruction took it away from the main point of the survey because it’s an excellent example of searching for asteroids too close to the sun we can’t see, which should continue to be done.
2021 PH27 is the closest known asteroid to the sun, according to a NOIRLab release.
He added that in 2026, NASA plans to send a surveyor into space to observe asteroids in the region, in the hope of discovering any of them that could pose a threat to Earth. By finding those asteroids, the agency can make similar plans for the DART mission, in which a spacecraft collided with an asteroid to change its course.
“The most important thing in planetary defense is to find and find them with plenty of warning time,” Chodas said.