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An asteroid that could have hit Earth in 2023 has proved safe

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For several days it was calculated that asteroid 2022 AE1 could have hit Earth on July 4, 2023, but subsequent calculations prevented it.

A asteroid which has seriously alerted scientists; the calculations on his orbitin fact, they did consider a probable impact against the Land the July 4, 2023. To make the scenario even more disturbing, the fact that the level of risk kept increasing day by day. So long as 2022 AE1 – this is the name of the “space stone”- has an estimated diameter of 70 metersa possible collision with the earth’s surface can result severe damage locally, especially if a densely populated area is involved. Fortunately, the observations of follow up conducted after the discovery have first attenuated and then completely averted the danger, but we have come very close to an “unprecedented” emergency for thehumanity.

It all started when the Mount Lemmon Observatory telescope in Arizona, part of the Near Earth Object surveillance network (NEO) Catalina Sky Survey (CSS), has targeted 2022 AE1. The potential future impact was calculated by the automated Asteroid Orbit Determination system (AstOD). Since more detections are needed to determine the actual risk of impact with the Earth, after the discovery the astronomers set to work to conduct all the necessary simulations and calculations. Almost exactly three days after the first observation, the probability of impact have been calculated in 1 in 2,900 (a trifle from the astronomical point of view), they went down to 1 in 1,800 after 5.9 days e 1 in 1,500 after 7.1 days. The growing risk has caused several chairs to jump and it is not unlikely to imagine scenes not dissimilar to those seen in the research centers. Don’t Look Up, immediately after the discovery of the comet Dibiansky (naturally with the due proportions, given that the celestial body in the film had a diameter of 9 kilometers and therefore the ability to trigger a mass extinction). At 7.9 days the risk decreased to a 1 in 2,800 chance, but then climbed back to 1 in 1,700 after 8.1 days.

Credit: ESA

At that point, the Full Moon revealed itself and the researchers lost the ability to continue monitoring the asteroid 2022 AE1, making the wait particularly unnerving, as underlined in a Press release by astronomer Marco Micheli of the Near-Earth Object Coordination Center (NEOCC) of the European Space Agency (ESA). “In my nearly ten years at ESA, I have never seen such a risky object,” said Dr Micheli. “It was exciting to plot 2022 AE1 and refine its trajectory until we had enough data to say for sure that this asteroid won’t hit us,” added the scientist. When the disturbance of the Moon moved aside, a probability of impact of 1 in 71,000 was determined on day 16.1 and subsequently zero risk was determined. We now know that on July 4, 2023, asteroid 2022 AE1 will pass at approx 10 million kilometers from the Earth (over 20 times that which separates us from the Moon) and there will be no risk of collision. Not just next year, but for the next hundred years, according to scholars.

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“The asteroid 2022 AE1 does not present any risk of impact”, commented the scientist Laura Faggioli, also an expert in NEOCC who calculated the orbit of 2022 AE1. “If the path of 2022 AE1 had remained uncertain, we would have used every means possible to continue observing it with the largest telescopes we have. Since it has been removed from our risk list, we no longer need to follow it: it’s time to move on to the next one, ”said the scientist. Although the risk of impact with this space stone has been averted, sooner or later we will have to deal with one of these objects from deep space. In fact, it is estimated that each 100 million years crash into the Earth a colossus like Chicxulub, the asteroid that caused the dinosaurs to become extinct. Precisely in light of this risk, scientists are studying methods to deflect the trajectories of asteroids, which the DART probe will try to demonstrate in the first planetary defense mission.