Three new Near-Earth asteroids have been discovered. The “planet killers” hide in the glow of the sun
Scientists recently discovered three near-Earth asteroids. One of them is huge, about 1.5 kilometers in diameter, and is in a potentially dangerous orbit. This discovery is important not only from the point of view of planetary security, as it could provide us with new information about the inner solar system.
We associate asteroids primarily with parts of the solar system distant from Earth – the area between Mars and Jupiter and the rocky belt extending beyond the orbit of Neptune. Although such “space guys” sometimes they appear in our neighborhoodmany of these objects are closer to the Sun than the Earth.
Observing them can be difficult due to the proximity of our star, but an international team of scientists has recently managed to find new near-Earth objects. According to the results of a study published in The Astronomical Journal, one of them may be near our planet in the future. However, it is difficult for specialists to determine when exactly this will happen.
At the intersection of the orbits
An international research team led by astronomer Scott S. Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC, searched for asteroids that orbit the Sun shorter than Earth. They managed to discover three objects belonging to two groups, including one classified as potentially dangerous asteroids.
2022 AP7 is an Apollo asteroid. It moves around the Sun in an elliptical orbit that cuts across the Earth. A collision with our planet could prove catastrophic, as it is the largest object of its type discovered in the last eight years. The 2022 AP7 is about 1.5 kilometers in diameter.
“So far, we have found two large near-Earth asteroids that are about a kilometer in diameter. That’s the size we refer to as “planet killers,” says Sheppard. “There are probably only a few similar-sized near-Earth asteroids left, and these large, undiscovered objects have orbits that keep them inside the orbits of Earth and Venus most of the time,” he adds.
The remaining asteroids have routes that are closer to the Sun. One of them is 2021 PH27 – the asteroid with the smallest orbit of any so far found. Its solar orbit is only 113 days. The latter – 2021 LJ4 – also orbits the Sun entirely within the Earth’s orbit. Both are known as the Atira asteroids.
History of our neighborhood
There are over 2,000 potentially dangerous asteroids known to us, the largest of which are about seven kilometers in diameter. Scientists track them, model their orbits, and are able to calculate when they might be in reach of the Earth.
Finding new asteroids is important not only for planetary safety. With a better understanding of what lies within the inner solar system, we can learn more about its dynamics and history, as well as the asteroids themselves. The study primarily found asteroids at least a kilometer in diameter. This could mean that smaller bodies are more prone to decay under the influence of the sun’s gravitational and thermal effects, or that observing them requires even more accurate sensors.
“This is a unique chance to understand what types of objects are lurking in the inner solar system,” Sheppard adds.
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Main photo source: DOE / FNAL / DECam / CTIO / NOIRLab / NSF / AURA / J. da Silva / Spaceengine
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