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Astronomers have discovered “planet killer” asteroids orbiting not too far from the Earth, raising concerns that the celestial bodies could pose a threat to humanity in the future, USA Today reported.
In a new study, a research team detected three asteroids roaming around the orbits of Earth and Venus, noting that the giant rocks were previously undetectable via telescope due to the glare from the Sun.
They were only able to spot them during twilight at an observatory in Chile using a dark energy camera from a telescope.
The largest – and most dangerous – rock is 2022 AP7. Nearly one mile wide, the asteroid has an orbit that could reach our planet’s path in the distant future – although the timetable is uncertain.
The other two asteroids, 2021 LJ4 and 2021 PH27, pose less of a risk, the team noted.
Even so, the authors and officials at NASA suggested that it was unlikely that any world-ending events were going to happen soon.
NASA’s Paul Chodas, who was not involved in the study, countered that the fear of a potential crash distracted scientists from the main point: How the Sun can act as a blindspot when hunting for “planet killer” asteroids.
He added that the agency plans to better monitor these blindspots and prepare planetary defense plans – similar to the recent DART mission where a spacecraft was crashed into an asteroid and successfully changed its path.
“The most important thing in planetary defense is to find them … with lots of warning time,” Chodas said.