Astronomers are researching a huge asteroid that is heading towards the Earth. However, the chances of the asteroid hitting our planet are as slim as 1 in 63 000.
The object is the first potentially concerning asteroid that has ever been spotted by Ukrainian cosmologists. Gennadiy Borisov, who discovered the object, says that with a diameter of 400 meters (which is more than the famous Apophis), the asteroid is 1,7 million kilometers away from our planet, which is 5 times further than the moon.
Notably, a group of cosmologists discovered the object with the help of a small and simple telescope Genon. Scientists worldwide have been using more advanced equipment for this purposes lately. And it is the first case in 10 years of discovering a near Earth asteroid using such a tiny installation.
Spotting asteroids is a hobby for Gennadiy Borisov, who has always been more interested in discovering comets, and it was a surprise for the group of scientists to detect such a significant object. Right after the discovery, astronomers sent data to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which named the object “GB00003.”
The size of the asteroid allows it to be called an “elite” space object, as it is bigger than 150 meters. The chances of GB00003 to run into our planet is less than 1 per cent, however further research might show different results. If the asteroid meets the Earth on the 26 of August 2032, the effect might be as huge as 50 nuclear bombs could cause. If it flies by, the object will come as close as 4 thousand kilometers, which is 96 times closer than the moon, far too close for the Earth’s safety.
That is the reason why the object is number one in PHAs (List of The Potentially-hazardous asteroids) and is colored green, which refers to its diameter. Yet many astronomers now say that the list needs to be reassessed after meteorite accident in Chelyabinsk, as being 10 times smaller it could cause such a formidable effect over the city.
When meteorite flew over the Russian town Chelyabinsk, it captured the attention of people worldwide. Almost everyone in the city witnessed the cosmic activity, taking footage on smartphones and posting it over every social media. Some people even sold traces of the space rock, which are still available on eBay. It seemed like a scenario of science fiction movies coming true.
Not all scientists believe in finding solutions, but some inspiring ones are working towards that goal. The European Space Agency will launch a new tracking telescope Gaia next month that will help to avert Earth’s encounters with space rocks. It will be able to spot space objects between our planet and the sun. Currently, it is a very challenging task for terrestrial telescopes, as sun’s radiation blinds the glass. However, these objects are the most likely to run into our planet, as their orbits often overlap with the Earth’s. The new telescope will be also able to deal with other tasks, such as examining exploded stars from other galaxies before our planet was born. It is possible that scientists will use Gaia for observing the GB00003 asteroid, as soon as it is installed in space.
Meanwhile, the asteroid is being watched and assessed by terrestrial telescopes worldwide, which means that more accurate data about the object might appear very soon. While the global community is participating in debates over the different outcomes of the approaching rock, should we remember that new inspiring science is helping us understand more of our universe so we can live safely on our planet?