In January, US researchers discovered the asteroid “2022 AE1”. It could hit Earth in July 2023. But two numbers are immensely reassuring.
There is one good news and two bad ones. Let’s start with the two bad ones. First, the asteroid 2022 AE1, discovered on January 6, 2022, is large enough to safely pass through Earth’s atmosphere and impact Earth – which would result in catastrophe. Secondly, this may already happen on July 4, 2023, as astronomers have calculated. But don’t worry, there’s still good news. But more on that later.
Asteroid “2022 AE1”: 1st place of the objects that could hit the earth
Asteroid “2022 AE1” was discovered by scientists at the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) in the US state of Arizona. The Nasa project specializes in searching for potentially dangerous asteroids. The latest find is a hit: “2022 AE1” has landed directly at number one on Nasa’s list of near-Earth objects that may hit Earth.
The asteroid is about 70 meters in diameter. While small meteoroids burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, objects larger than 50 meters can penetrate the atmosphere and hit the ground at speeds of 70 kilometers per second. The kinetic energy is converted into thermal energy within fractions of a second – or in short: there is a violent explosion.
The astronomers have calculated two possible dates for such an asteroid impact: It could happen in July 2028 or as early as July 4, 2023.
Info: Asteroid, Meteor, Comet – What are the differences?
- Basically, the celestial bodies differ in size, composition and their distance from the sun.
- An asteroid is usually solid and contains little to no volatile matter, so it doesn’t have a tail
- A Comet consists largely of volatile substances such as water. Because the distance to the sun is great, the volatiles are frozen. When comets approach warmer regions, the ice melts and the typical comet tail develops.
- Meteorites are the smallest objects. They often arise from the particles of a comet’s tail or they arise when larger celestial bodies collide. If they enter the earth’s atmosphere, they can be perceived as meteors or shooting stars.
Now comes the good news: The probability that the asteroid will actually hit Earth is not particularly high. Two scales that astronomers use help assess risk.
Scale indicates risk
On the one hand there is the so-called Palermo scale. Factors such as the probability of an impact, the kinetic energy and the time remaining until the potential impact are summarized in one number. A value of 0 means that the asteroid under study has the same probability of hitting Earth as any other random object of the same size. A positive value on the Palermo scale could therefore be cause for concern. For example, the value Plus 2 means that the probability of an impact with a certain asteroid is 100 times higher than with any other randomly selected object. However, the value for asteroid “2022 AE1” is minus 0.89. This means that a dangerous impact on Earth is unlikely.
A second scale is the Turin Scale. With their help, both the probability of an impact and its impact can be specified in the form of a number. The scale goes from 1 to 10, with 8 to 10 being a safe collision with the earth. 0 means no collision or the object is far too small to cause damage. Asteroid “2022 AE1” has a 1 on the Turin scale. For this it says:
A routine new discovery that is predicted to have a flyby that poses no unusual hazard. The current calculations show that a collision is extremely unlikely. Further observations will most likely result in a reclassification to Class 0.
In other words: the end of an asteroid impact is not near – at least as far as “2022 AE1” is concerned. so no reason to panic.
However, impacts cannot be ruled out, even if their probability is usually low. The inhabitants of the Russian city of Chelyabinsk only had to experience this a few years ago. A 20 meter asteroid did not hit there, but exploded over the city and caused serious damage. Meteorite chunks destroyed buildings, thousands of windows shattered, hundreds of people were injured.
Asteroid Hits: What Happens Then?
Asteroids larger than 150 meters cause significant regional damage. What if an even bigger chunk hits the ground? What exactly would happen then? “In principle, we know that because it has already happened in Germany,” says astrophysicist Carolin Liefke. About 15 million years ago, what astronomers and geologists now call the “Ries Event” happened. Read what this is all about here: Asteroid rushes past Earth – Nasa has a plan