An extinction-level asteroid that could one day hit Earth was found hiding near Venus

An extinction-level asteroid that could one day hit Earth was found hiding near Venus

Those who have driven a car are probably familiar with the idea of ​​blind spots – the areas around you where you can’t easily see and are therefore particularly vulnerable to threats. This principle applies to asteroid hunting just as easily. How Telescope technology continues to advanceastronomers have used their scopes to look at those nearby areas of our solar system that are normally difficult to observe.

“This study shows that we still have a way to go to discover and track asteroids that could hit Earth.”

This brings us to the recent telescopic observations in the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile Like the scientists there published in September in The Astronomical Journal, there are three near-Earth asteroids (or NEAs) hidden within the sun’s glare, and apparently not previously observed. These particular asteroids lurk between the orbits of Earth and its nearest neighbor towards the Sun, Venus. One of them is the largest potentially dangerous NEA detected in eight years.

The finding is particularly alarming because it suggests that there are some potentially dangerous uncatalogued asteroids that humanity has missed in its quest to catalog and identify potential civilization-destroying asteroids or comets. In particular, the recently discovered asteroid called 2022 AP7 orbits the Sun in such a way that it could one day cross and hit Earth.

The B612 Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on protecting the planet from the impacts of dangerous space objects, focuses on preventing humanity from suffering the same fate as the dinosaurs. “This study shows that we still have a way to discover and track asteroids that could hit Earth,” said Dr. Ed Lu, three-time NASA astronaut and executive director of the Foundation’s Asteroid Institute B612. “We have the technology to deflect asteroids, but that technology is only useful if we can first discover and track the asteroids.”

The good news, as Lu told Salon, is that “the vast majority (but not all) of the asteroids large enough to wipe out human civilization have already been tracked.” However, there are many untracked asteroids that are smaller and, while not large enough to constitute an extinction event, could still end millions of lives; these include asteroids the size of which could wipe out a city. Lu noted that these types of space rocks “are thousands of times more numerous,” and yet we only know about a “small percentage.”

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On occasion, policy makers have tried to compensate for this lack of knowledge. When they do, however, they only end up learning more about humanity’s urgent need for more information about all manner of near-Earth objects.

“In 2005, the US Congress mandated NASA to find 90% of all Near Earth Objects (NEOs) larger than 140 meters, the size of a football stadium,” Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb wrote in Salon. “As of now, no known asteroid larger than 140 meters in size has a significant chance of hit Earth within the next century. However, less than half of the estimated 25,000 NEOs that are 140 meters or larger in size have been found so far.”

“Less than half of the estimated 25,000 [Near Earth Asteroids] which are 140 meters and larger have so far been found.”

According to Lu, more efforts are being made to continue detecting asteroids like the three NEAs recently detected between the orbits of Venus and Earth. Thanks to the construction of new observatories such as the Vera Rubin Observatory (also in Chile) and the development of new computational techniques such as those produced by the Asteroid Institute, “in a few years we expect to greatly increase our capacity to track asteroids and provide many decades of warning of potential impacts,” Lu told Salon.

If nothing else, the discovery of asteroid 2021 PH27, about a kilometer in size and, as Loeb noted, “which has the closest approach to the Sun, 13% of the Earth-Sun separation, and the precession larger as a result of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, known for any body in the solar system,” justifies the use of this new technology.

“Accelerating the rate of asteroid discovery requires funding, whether for an organization like B612 or NASA,” B612 Foundation President Danica Remy wrote in Salon. “We, collectively, must fund and advocate for the development of advanced computational tools and new observational capabilities.”

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