Astronomers discover new “potentially dangerous” asteroid

The body is 1.5 kilometers wide and, according to its discoverers, an impact on Earth “would have a devastating impact on life as we know it.” 


An international team of astronomers has announced the discovery of a huge asteroid whose orbit intersects with Earth ‘s , creating a slim chance of a catastrophic collision in the distant future.

The 1.5 kilometer wide asteroid , named 2022 AP7 , was discovered in an area where it is particularly difficult to detect objects due to the brightness of the Sun.

It was found using high-tech instruments on the Victor M. Blanco telescope in Chile , originally developed to study dark matter, and the research results were published in the scientific journal The Astronomical Journal .

” 2022 AP7 does intersect with Earth’s orbit , making it a potentially dangerous asteroid, but it is not currently on a trajectory that would cause it to collide with Earth, now or in the future,” said the lead author of the study. 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 myriad gravitational forces. Forecasts are therefore difficult to make in the longer term.

The US-funded research group NOIRLab , which operates multiple observatories, described the asteroid as “the largest potentially Earth- hazardous object discovered in the last eight years.”

2022 AP7 takes five years to go around the Sun in its current orbit, and its closest point to Earth remains several million kilometers away.

“Devastating impact”

While the risk is very small, an asteroid collision of that size “would have a devastating impact on life as we know it,” says Sheppard. He explains that the dust that would rise into the air would have a huge cooling effect, causing an “extinction event the likes of which has 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.

According to Sheppard, there are “between 20 and 50 huge NEOs left to find,” but most are in orbits located in the sun’s glare.”

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. (AFP)