We’ve Discovered The Largest “Planet Ending” Asteroid in Nearly 10 Years
by Ashley Dreiling
This is big. Really big.
Astronomers at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory have discovered three new near-Earth asteroids, including the largest one seen in almost a decade, at nearly one mile wide.
According to a study, published in the Astronomical Journal, the asteroids were difficult to locate because they were hidden by the sun’s glare. Scientists used the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) mounted on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile to study this region during the brief 10 minutes after sunset and before sunrise.
This new asteroid, named 2022 AP7, is one of several near-Earth objects (NEOs), those that stay between the orbits of Earth and Venus, spotted recently.
“Our twilight survey is scouring the area within the orbits of Earth and Venus for asteroids,” Scott S. Sheppard, an astronomer at the Earth and Planets Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science, said in a statement. “So far we have found two large near-Earth asteroids that are about 1 kilometer across, a size that we call planet killers.”
When NEOs are large enough to cause significant damage if they hit us, one kilometer or more, they are considered “planet killers”.
“Only about 25 asteroids with orbits completely within Earth’s orbit have been discovered to date because of the difficulty of observing near the glare of the Sun,” said Sheppard.
This and other discoveries by the DECam benefit all of humanity for many reasons. Not only can we monitor potential threats, but they give us insight into the history of space objects and perhaps hold the key to their future behavior.
Tags: · 2022 AP7, asteroids, astronomers, Astronomical Journal, astronomy, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, chile, Dark Energy Camera, DECam, earth, Earth and Planets Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Near-Earth Object, NEO, NEOs, orbit, orbits, planet-killer asteroids, planet-killers, Scott S. Sheppard, space, sun, sunrise, sunset, top, venus, Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope