Astronomers find the largest potentially dangerous asteroid in recent years

An international team of astronomers has announced the discovery of three previously unknown asteroids of the Atria family. One of the objects poses a potential danger to the Earth. 

Atria Family

Asteroids of the Atria family are a real “tough nut” for astronomers. The fact is that their orbits lie entirely inside the orbit of our planet. This means that in the earthly sky they never move away from the Sun at a significant angle and therefore are constantly lost in the rays of the luminary. Observations of asteroids of the Atria family are possible only at dusk for ten minutes shortly before dawn or immediately after sunset. If we add to this the small size of asteroids, it becomes clear why to date researchers have managed to find only a few dozen such objects.

A diagram of the orbits of the planets of the Solar system. The green color indicates the region where the asteroids of the Atria family are located. Source:

Fortunately for astronomers, they were able to pick up an instrument capable of coping with such a task. We are talking about the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) installed on the 4-meter Victor Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. During a series of observations, it managed to detect three previously unknown asteroids of theAtria family.

The largest potentially dangerous asteroid in recent years

Of the three objects found by DECam, the 1.5-kilometer asteroid 2022 AP7 stands out. Currently, it does not pose a threat to our planet. However, calculations show that in the future, under the influence of the gravity of Mars and Jupiter, its orbit may change, which will lead to the fact that it will begin to cross the Earth’s orbit. This is the largest potentially dangerous asteroid found by astronomers in the last eight years.

The asteroid of the Atria family in the artist’s image. Source: DOE/FNAL/DECam/CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva/Spaceengine

Also worth noting is the 2021 PH27 facility, which existence was originally announced last year. To date, it is the asteroid with the smallest known orbital period. At perihelion 2021 PH27 approaches the Sun at a distance of only 0.13 AU (20 million km). At this moment, its surface warms up to a temperature of almost 500° C.

According to researchers, in reality, the Atria family has many more asteroids. It is quite possible that they may hide objects that pose an immediate threat to the Earth. To detect them, systematic searches using tools similar to DECam are necessary.

Recall that recently Chinese researchers proposed tracking dangerous asteroids from the orbit of Venus.

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