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Oh cool. ‘Planet Killer’ Asteroids Discovered Inside System • The Register

Astronomers have discovered an asteroid of sufficient size and orbit to wreak Earthwide destruction if it ever hits our planet. And that’s a mighty big if.

2022 AP7 was discovered along with two other large asteroids – 2021 LJ4 and 2021 PH27 – by a team of scientists searching for objects in the inner Solar System during observations at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

Over 30,000 near-Earth asteroids have been cataloged to date, and thousands of new entries are added each year. However, the latest trio of space rocks are notable for their size and location.

At less than a kilometer in diameter, 2021 LJ4 is the smallest of the three.

Over a kilometer across, 2021 PH27 is the closest known asteroid to the sun and offers the hell of a prospect of surface temperatures high enough to melt lead when it’s closest to our star.

And 2022 AP7, also just over a kilometer across and with a five-year orbit around the Sun, is the largest potentially dangerous asteroid found in our system in the last eight years, according to a recent article in the Astrophysical Journal.

There are currently no dates when AP7 would collide with Earth in 2022, and it is highly unlikely that it ever will

“Currently 2022 AP7 is crossing Earth orbit, which means it is a potentially dangerous asteroid as it could one day collide with Earth if Earth happened to be in the exact spot in its orbit where the asteroid is crossing it says Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Earth and Planets Laboratory and the paper’s lead author The registry on Monday.

“Currently, there are no dates that AP7 would collide with Earth in 2022, and it is highly unlikely that it ever will.

“If 2022 AP7 collided with Earth, it would be a mass extinction as dust would be blown into Earth’s atmosphere for years and block precious, needed sunlight.”

These asteroids within the system are difficult to spot because observing them requires staring at the Sun — which is so bright its glare obscures small objects. The team only spotted the trio while observing the night sky in brief bursts during twilight hours when the sun’s glare was at its lowest.

“Our twilight survey is scanning the area inside the orbits of Earth and Venus for asteroids,” Sheppard said in a previous statement. “So far we’ve found two large near-Earth asteroids that are about a kilometer in diameter — a size we call planet killers.”

Astronomers had only two brief 10-minute windows to observe the space rocks with the observatory’s Dark Energy Camera (DECam), mounted on the four-meter Víctor M. Blanco telescope, and even with this delicate instrument at their disposal, the Asteroid tinkerers don’t. I don’t have it easy.

“Large areas of sky are needed because the inner asteroids are rare, and deep images are needed because asteroids are faint and you have to contend with the bright twilight skies near the sun and the distorting effect of Earth’s atmosphere,” Sheppard said. “DECam can cover large areas of the sky to depths unattainable with smaller telescopes, allowing us to go deeper, cover more sky, and study the inner Solar System in a way never seen before.”

If you’re wondering about 2021 LJ4 and 2021 PH7, they aren’t dangerous and won’t bother us Terrans as the rocks orbit the Sun at distances within Venus’ orbit. There’s a 0.7 percent chance that 2021 PH27 could collide with Earth’s neighbor in the next million years, the researchers calculated.

The scientists believe that there are several more potentially dangerous undiscovered objects in the solar system and promised to continue the search.

“There are probably few near-Earth asteroids of similar sizes left to be found, and these large undiscovered asteroids likely have orbits that keep them within the orbits of Earth and Venus most of the time. Only about 25 asteroids with orbits entirely within Earth’s orbit have been spotted to date because it is difficult to observe near sunlight,” concluded Sheppard. ® Oh cool. ‘Planet Killer’ Asteroids Discovered Inside System • The Register

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