December 5, 2022

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What is true and how much do we have to worry about?

Some newspapers re-release the news of a discoveryAsteroid 2022 AP7 Define it as the greatest.planet killer from past years.

Indeed, seeing this space rock aroused attention from the first moment, both for the sake of its serendipitous identification, and, above all, for its amazement. size and his way. Until a few months ago, the huge stellar body was hiding behind the sun and preparing to cross the Earth’s orbit.

As expected, panic rumors of a possible collision immediately surfaced, but we must not give in to easy fears about this. Scientists around the world have been watching 2022 AP7 since January and studies on this stellar body are reassuring. identification “Potentially dangerous asteroid” In short, this is not true, but without some detailed information it is definitely misleading.

To illustrate, let’s start from the data and data of the team of scientists who found and reported it.

discovery

The first sighting of 2022 AP7 is a feature of a team of scientists from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington. Observations made at dusk by the Inter-American Observatory at Cerro Tololo in Chile are known by NOIRLab in the United States.

A group of astronomers at the time was searching for space rocks within the orbits of Earth and Venus when, unexpectedly, they claimed to have discovered a massive asteroid of Diameter 1.5 km Hidden from sunlight with two partners, the smaller groups later renamed the 2021 LJ4 and 2021 PH27. In fact, they have also remained hidden from the star’s glare, in the deepest part of the solar system, albeit with completely different orbits. Of particular interest is 2021 PH27, the closest known asteroid to the Sun, so much so that when it orbits, its surface reaches temperatures so hot that lead melts.

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The discovery of the three bodies was so relevant that it deserves to be published in the journal Astronomical Journal. To emphasize the scientific weight of this event was alsoThe astrophysicist Gianluca MassiScientific Director of the Virtual Telescope:

“Asteroid 2022 AP7 is one of the largest and potentially dangerous asteroids discovered in the past eight years: first seen on January 13 thanks to the four-meter Víctor M. Blanco Telescope in Chile.”

There is talk of a potentially hazardous asteroid (Potentially Hazardous Asteroid or PHA) because the 2022 AP7, with a diameter of between 1.1 and 2.3 kilometers, is Largest PHA discovered since 2014 And perhaps 5 percent of the largest ever found.

The truth of the facts

Scott Sheppard, coordinator of the study published in the Astronomical Journal, stated unequivocally that “at the moment, 2022 AP7 has no chance of hitting Earth” and that, in fact, “any asteroid more than one kilometer long is considered a “planet killer” (planet killer) “Although a direct collision with Earth was not expected.

It is also true that the . file The distance from the ground Not much its orbit takes it to less than 7.5 million km from U.S. “It’s an Apollo asteroid” – testifies Sheppard – that is, it belongs to that group of 15,000 asteroids that periodically cross the Earth’s orbit.

Noting the scientific evidence, we can say that at the moment there is no data that would make us think of an upcoming collision with our planet that 2022 AP7 was. Removed from the list of bodies at risk of impact They are monitored by both the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Near-Earth Object Coordination Center and the JPL’s Sentinel System.

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Consequences of the potential impact

If we are not in danger, what makes this vision noteworthy? As we said, the most important aspect is the size of this asteroid.

Starting from expert reconstruction, we can say that if such a space object collides with the Earth, the effect will be destructive life as we know it today. Dust and pollutants will be lifted into the atmosphere and remain there for several years. At that point, Sheppard said, “the Earth’s surface is likely to cool significantly due to the fact that sunlight will not reach the planet,” a phenomenon that would lead to ” mass extinction Like the one that has not been seen on Earth for millions of years.”

However, we must also consider the perspective as the asteroid will gradually begin to cross the Earth’s orbit closer to where we are:

“This will happen within centuries and we do not know the orbit of 2022 AP7 with sufficient accuracy to say much about such future risks.”

In the end, the astrophysicist explained how his team expects to find “some” more near-Earth objects of a kilometer or more in size in the next year or two.