There is always danger lurking in the dark. To recognize danger in advance, human beings instinctively have a sense of crisis and are alert for beings that will become dangers in the dark. However, it is difficult to gain this awareness of the danger of going secret by hiding behind bright sunlight. Such an existence is a near-Earth asteroid, hidden in sunlight and never identified.
Recently, the existence of a dangerous asteroid that hides in the sunlight and is approaching the Earth has been confirmed. An international research team led by astronomer Dr. Scott Shepard from the Earth and Planetary Laboratory of the Carnegie Foundation for Science and Technology in the United States discovered three near-Earth asteroids hidden inside the solar system and recently published in The Astronomical Journal.
Asteroids are important objects for space science research for mankind. Asteroids made of hard metals and rocks have long attracted attention as a potential ‘weave’ that can mine rare minerals that are absent or lacking on Earth. In the distant future, it is even predicted that fuel can be extracted directly from space exploration through asteroid research.
However, the actual appearance of the asteroid before these resource attributes is a ‘catastrophe’. Just like the 10km diameter asteroid that destroyed the earth’s dinosaurs in the past, many asteroids orbiting the solar system are also a danger to mankind that you never know when they will come.
The research team has discovered three asteroids this time, and ‘2022 AP7’ with a size of 1.5 km is the closest to this risk. As a result of the research team’s observations, it was confirmed that AP7 2022 has an orbit that crosses the Earth’s orbit.
If an asteroid over 1km in size collides with Earth, such as 2022 AP7, it will create a crater over 10km and bring a disaster that can destroy civilization. This is because pollutants such as dust from asteroid impacts fill the Earth’s atmosphere for many years, cooling the Earth’s temperature to extremes, leading to the extinction of life. For this reason, asteroids such as 2022 AP7 are classified as ‘planet killer’ and potentially dangerous asteroids. 2022 AP7 is the largest potentially dangerous asteroid discovered in the last eight years.
The problem is that finding a planet killer is not easy. 2022 AP7 is an asteroid in the solar system that is very difficult to observe due to sunlight. In fact, there are only 25 asteroids in the same location as 2022 AP7, so their existence is shrouded in mystery.
This is because direct observation towards the sun is difficult due to the sensitivity of the space telescope for observing asteroids. To observe faint shapes inside the solar system, wider and deeper observational images are needed, but it is not easy due to the amount of sunlight and image distortion caused by the Earth’s atmosphere. As a result, unobserved asteroids often collide with Earth. In 2013, an unobserved asteroid exploded over Chelyabinsky, Russia, producing a shock wave 26 to 33 times greater than the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, injuring 1,500 people.
After all, identifying a hidden risk like 2022 AP7 requires science and technology that can observe it. Currently, only the Inter-American Observatory in Chile can see the asteroids obscured by sunlight from the Ultra-Sensitive Dark Energy Camera (DEC). On the other hand, astronomy circles are concerned, estimating that less than half of the near-Earth asteroids that can cause large-scale damage from a collision with Earth have not been discovered.
By Lee In-hee, staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org