For as much as we think we know about the universe around us, there are still a number of potential mysteries out there…some of which could prove to be rather dangerous.
Such is the case this week, as astronomers have discovered a “hidden” asteroid, obscured by the glare of the sun, that could one day bring a mass-extinction event to our planet.
Astronomers have discovered, hiding in the sun’s glare, a “planet killer” asteroid that could potentially one day hit Earth.
The asteroid, called 2022 AP7, was among three new near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), hiding in the inner solar system, the region within the orbits of Earth and Venus. Astronomers have a particularly tough time finding asteroids in this region because of the intense glare of the sun. Still, they managed to find a trio of NEAs because of the more favorable conditions during a brief window of twilight.
But when the asteroid could pose a risk to us is still up in the air.
Of the three NEAs discovered, 2021 LJ4 and 2021 PH27 have orbits that remain interior to Earth’s orbit. 2022 AP7, on the other hand, measuring about 1.5 kilometers wide, has an orbit that may someday place it in Earth’s path, though it’s difficult for scientists to pinpoint exactly when.
“Our twilight survey is scouring the area within the orbits of Earth and Venus for asteroids,” said Scott S. Sheppard, an astronomer at the Earth and Planets Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science and the lead author of the paper describing this work.
Such astronomical anomalies are rather rare, due in no small part to the sun-glare issued mentioned earlier, with scientists estimating that perhaps only 25 such asteroids exist at present.