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An approximately 70-metre asteroid became the ‘riskiest observed in over a decade’, causing observers at the European Space Agency reason for concern.

At first glance, the asteroid known as ‘2022 AE1’ could possible have hit us on 4 July 2023 – not enough time to stop it’s trajectory, and large enough to cause major damage to a local region.

Worryingly, the chance of impact from the asteroid appeared to increase, followed by a worrying time ‘in the dark’ as the full Moon blocked further observations.

As the moon eventually got out of the way, the skies cleared enough for ESA’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre (NEOCC) to re-evaluate their concerns.

To the relief of all, the chance that we would suffer a collision diminished significantly.

The latest summary is that 2022 AE1 will not strike the Earth and is no longer on ESA’s risk list.

No Hollywood movie material is likely to spawn from this one folks.

Marco Micheli, astronomer at ESA’s NEOCC said:

‘In January this year, we became aware of an asteroid with the highest ranking on the Palermo scale that we’ve seen in more than a decade, reaching -0.66…In my almost ten years at ESA I’ve never seen such a risky object. It was a thrill to track 2022 AE1 and refine its trajectory until we had enough data to say for certain, this asteroid will not strike,’ 


What exactly is the Palermo scale?


The Palermo scale is a measurement used by planetary defenders to assess the impact risk from near-Earth objects (NEOs) by combining the possible date of impact, the energy of the impact, and the probability of the impact.

If a value is less than -2 on the Palermo Scale it signifies that nothing major should happen; if it is between -2 and 0, then it is a situation that should be carefully monitored, and if it has a positive value then concern is justified.

Whilst there are asteroids out there that will definitely hit our planet, they post no risk as they are small enough to burn up in the atmosphere. Others that pose enormous risk to us are generally on a course that means they won’t strike us.

Since it was discovered in January, the orbits from the observation data from the asteroid provided by telescopes & observatories around the world was tallied and computed. Following this, the Palermo Scale values were projected and published via the NEOCC web portal.


Luca Conversi, Manager of the NEOCC said via Metro:


‘I was surprised at first when I heard about this asteroid as it is very rare to have such high Palermo scale, at first rated -1.5. Yet, I wasn’t too concerned as we get notifications like this – though at a lower level – few times per year…As it is custom in these cases, we activated our global network of telescopes to immediately get more observations and it soon seemed this asteroid was unlike any other we’d seen,’


Some observers remain concerned, and continue to track the asteroid, however since it is projected to pass us at around 20 times the distance of the Moon, we should be ok!


Author: Londonlad

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