'Planet killer' asteroid has just been found hidden in the sun's glare

Aisha Nozari

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'Planet killer' asteroid has just been found hidden in the sun's glare

Featured Image Credit: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo/Elen/Alamy Stock Photo

The script for Armageddon 2 has just been handed to Michael Bay on a plate as on Monday (31 October), astronomers announced they’d detected three near-earth asteroids, one of which has the potential to wipe out life as we know it.

The asteroids had previously been undetected by telescopes because of the sun’s brightness, but this week, it was announced that one of the rocky remnants is 1.5 kilometres - thus defined as a ‘planet killer’.

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The findings were published in The Astronomical Journal and confirm that the asteroids were lurking within the sun’s glare.

Astronomers took advantage of a brief moment of twilight to conduct investigations and used the Dark Energy Camera to locate the space rocks.

The Dark Energy Camera sits on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-metre Telescope in Chile’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory.

While it’s been determined that the largest of the asteroids - named 2022 AP7 - does have an orbit that could bring it within our planet’s path, scientists can’t determine exactly when this might happen because of how long it takes the rock to orbit the sun.

The asteroid only crosses the earth’s orbit when our planet is on the opposite side of the sun, and this pattern will continue for centuries because the space rock takes a full five years to orbit the latter.

Astronomers have detected near-earth asteroids, one of which has the potential to wipe out life as we know it. Credit: Science Photo Library/Alamy Stock Photo
Astronomers have detected near-earth asteroids, one of which has the potential to wipe out life as we know it. Credit: Science Photo Library/Alamy Stock Photo

However, over time, the asteroid’s orbit will sync with our planet’s, but scientists will have to wait until they’re able to predict the asteroid’s orbit more precisely before making estimates about a possible collision.

Scott S. Sheppard, an astronomer at the Earth & Planets Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington and the study’s lead author said in a statement: “Our twilight survey is scouring the area within the orbits of Earth and Venus for asteroids.”

He continued: “So far we have found two large near-earth asteroids that are about 1 kilometre across, a size that we call planet killers.”

Sheppard also insisted that for now, the asteroid will ‘stay well away from earth’, but did add that an asteroid of its size would ‘have a devastating impact on life as we know it’.

The asteroid is set to 'stay well away from earth'... for now. Credit: James Thew/Alamy Stock Photo
The asteroid is set to 'stay well away from earth'... for now. Credit: James Thew/Alamy Stock Photo

“It would be a mass extinction event like hasn’t been seen on earth in millions of years,” Sheppard explained.

If the asteroid were to hit, pollutants and dust would swarm our atmosphere for years, in turn cooling the planet and stopping sunlight reaching earth.

In short: it would be a very unenjoyable experience for all of earth’s inhabitants.

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Topics: Technology, Space, Science

Aisha Nozari
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