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2022 AP7: Astronomers discover an asteroid that could destroy planets

2022 AP7: A group of scientists has found three enormous near-Earth asteroids that were concealing from the Sun’s light. One of them, 2022 AP7, is “possibly harmful” to Earth and is thought to be the greatest planet-killer-sized asteroid to have been discovered in a decade.

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2022 AP7: Key Points

  • The three asteroids are part of a group that is located within the orbits of Earth and Venus. They are difficult to see, though, because the Sun’s brightness prevents telescopic views of them.
  • The scientists only observed during twilight hours, a brief but ideal 10-minute window each night, because they were obscured by the Sun’s brightness.
  • At the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, they made use of a Dark Energy Camera.
  • They were able to photograph vast areas of the sky with the use of a high-tech camera that was part of the NOIRLAB initiative of the US National Science Foundation (NSF).
  • The camera was first created to perform a Dark Energy Survey, which was carried out between 2013 and 2019 by the US Department of Energy and the NSF.
  • The asteroids are blurred and deformed by the Earth’s atmosphere because they are near the horizon, which presented the astronomers with a further challenge in addition to dealing with the Sun’s glare.
  • It is simpler to find asteroids that are farther from the Sun.

What are the asteroids that we know about?

Only about 25 asteroids with orbits that are close to Earth’s orbit have been found so far by scientists. Sheppard’s team has so far found three of these. Sheppard said of two of the three detected asteroids, “We have found two huge near-Earth asteroids that are roughly 1 kilometre across, a size that we term planet killers. The orbits of the two objects, 2021 LJ4 and 2021 PH27, are safely contained inside the parameters of Earth’s orbit. 2021 LJ4 is the smallest with a diameter of less than a kilometre. The asteroid 2021 PH27 is the nearest one to the Sun that is currently known. Because of this, lead can melt on its surface.

2022 AP7: About the asteroid

  • One of the three asteroids, the 1.5-kilometer-wide 2022 AP7 asteroid, stands out among the others because of its possible future crash route with Earth.
  • There is currently little known about the asteroid, including information on its composition and its route.

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Is the planet Earth currently under threat?

  • The asteroid now only crosses the Earth’s orbit when it is on the other side of the Sun, or when the Sun is directly in front of the asteroid.
  • As the asteroid takes around five years to orbit the sun, this will continue for several centuries.
  • According to Sheppard, an asteroid of this size may have a “devastating impact” since the Earth’s atmosphere would be engulfed in dust and pollutants for years, blocking sunlight.

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