Scientists discover ‘planet-killer’ asteroid — but don’t panic

Space

The Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope dome appears under the Milky Way at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory.

(NewsNation) — Scientists have identified the largest potentially hazardous asteroid detected in eight years — capable of planetwide destruction if it struck the Earth, one researcher said.

But as we are safe for many generations, this asteroid’s orbit is not its most noteworthy feature. “The interesting thing about 2022 AP7 is its relatively large size,” said Cristina Thomas, a planetary astronomer at Northern Arizona University who was not involved with the study.

The asteroid — called 2022 AP7 — is 0.9 miles wide and was discovered in a hard-to-see region that’s ordinarily obstructed by the glare of the Sun, according to the National Science Foundation.

The asteroid has an orbit that could eventually enter Earth’s path, NSF’s NOIRLab said in a news release.

Scott S. Sheppard is an astronomer at the Earth and Planets Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science and the lead author of the paper describing this work. He described the asteroid to the New York Times as “the largest potentially hazardous asteroid found in the last eight years or so.”

It’s one of three that scientists characterized as “hiding” in the inner solar system. The other two asteroids have orbits that “safely remain completely interior to Earth’s orbit,” according to the release.”

According to a New York Times Report, civilization should be safe for several more generations.

The discovery was made using the Dark Energy Camera mounted on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, according to a release.

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