June 5, 2023
Vancouver astronomer reviews discovery of 'killer planet' asteroid.

Vancouver astronomer reviews discovery of ‘killer planet’ asteroid.

Part of what makes asteroid 2022 AP7 “potentially dangerous” is its brightness, which is indicative of its large size.

If you’ve ever seen movies Armageddon the Don’t look upyou might have wondered what would happen if a giant asteroid or comet headed on a terrifying collision course with Earth.

While big-budget blockbusters tend to dramatize these scenarios, this type of existential threat could wipe out all life on our planet — if it happened, of course.

Recently, an asteroid called 2022 AP7 made headlines because it looks quite large and its orbit could bring it dangerously close to Earth’s path. Scientists classify these types of space rocks as “planet killers.”

But how worried should people be?

According to Marley Leacock, an astronomer at the HR MacMillan Space Center, people don’t need to worry about the attention-grabbing asteroid.

“HR MacMillan as an institution doesn’t really follow the news, and neither do I,” he said Vancouver is awesome.

However, the reason the astronomer isn’t concerned has nothing to do with the science behind how asteroids work and their effects.

“Determining an asteroid impact is not easy. It takes a lot of tracking and data collection to understand the object’s orbital properties. Each time we see it, more information is collected, which allows the models to be improved and modified,” he said. explained.

“It is not unusual for asteroids that once had a high impact risk to collide with Earth to have that risk reduced to zero after additional data is collected.”

Part of what makes asteroid 2022 AP7 “potentially dangerous” is its brightness, which is indicative of its large size. The other is the minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) with respect to Earth, which is the shortest distance it will intersect Earth’s orbit, Leacock described.

“If the MOID relative to Earth is less than 0.05 au [the distance between Earth and the sun] and it has an absolute magnitude of 22.0 or less (that makes it brighter – the magnitudes are weird) then it’s potentially dangerous,” he said.

“2022 AP7 has a MOID of 0.0475 au and an absolute magnitude of 17.1.”

What is a killer planet asteroid?

The term “planet killer” refers to the size of an asteroid, and NASA considers anything larger than 1 km to 2 km to have global effects, Leacock added.

In a paper published Monday (Oct. 31) in The Astronomical Journal, the research team came up with a 1.5-kilometer estimate for asteroid 2022 AP7. They also rank the giant space rock as the “largest potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA) discovered in about eight years.”

While these figures sound alarming, Leacock says the asteroid currently has no chance of colliding with Earth.

“It crosses our orbit, but when it does, we’re on the other side of the sun. Over time that will change and it will start crossing our orbit when we’re closer, but that will be hundreds of years from now,” he said.

“And even then, that number isn’t very precise. We don’t know enough about the asteroid’s orbit. The paper bases the orbit on a 5-year arc of observation, as [the researchers] found the asteroid in data from 2017, after spotting it in January 2022. Much more data is needed to make the models more accurate when we look into the future.”

Locals who want to learn more about the dangers associated with asteroids and comets can visit NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). Leacock points out that the government space agency’s Sentry impact monitoring system does not currently have 2022 AP7 listed in its Impact Risk Data table, which models trajectories for the next 100 years looking for potential impacts.

But some space rocks do make their way to Earth. they just aren’t the ones with the ability to wipe out life on Earth.

Ruth Hamilton, a resident of Golden, BC, had a meteor crash into her roof while she was fast asleep in October 2021. Fortunately, she was not injured.

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