Shocking! Asteroid was set to HIT the Earth, says ESA; then THIS happened!
ESA was tracking an asteroid which was going to hit the Earth! Yes, you read that right. Then suddenly, this happened
In an incident that has left everyone bewildered, an asteroid, which was on course to hit the Earth, has now suddenly changed its course and thereby shocked astronomers. Apparently, the asteroid was moving so fast towards the Earth that there was no possibility of deflecting it and a hit was almost certain. In January, scientists were tracking a near-Earth object (NEO) whose trajectory highlighted that it was set to hit Earth on July 4, 2023 and cause massive destruction to the local area of impact. But upon further observation in February, it was discovered that the asteroid has undergone some mysterious course correction and now it will not be hitting the Earth. Named as asteroid 2022 AE1, it has become the latest mystery for astronomers and scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA).
The situation around the asteroid was pretty concerning. The chances of the 200 feet wide asteroid (for reference: as large as a 20 story building) hitting our planet was increasing after the first 7 days of observation, according to the ESA. After that, the scientists were kept in the dark for a week as the Moon made its way between the asteroid and the Earth and due to its luminescence, made it impossible to observe 2022 AE 1. Once the Moon moved away and astronomers observed the asteroid again, it turned out that the chances of an impact had drastically decreased to the point where it has now been removed from the ESA's risk list.
Mysterious asteroid heading for Earth undergoes course-correction
The asteroid's risk assessment put it at a very high risk initially. Marco Micheli, an ESA astronomer explained, “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 -1.5. 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”.
The Palermo Technical Impact Hazard Scale, also known as the Palermo scale is a logarithmic scale used by astronomers to rate the potential hazard of impact of a near-Earth object (NEO). For reference, a +2 rating on the scale would indicate massive destruction whereas -2 would mean an impact will only cause local damage upon impact.
So, how did an asteroid, that was so likely to impact Earth, suddenly change its course? “As is often the case, the overlap with Earth remains even while the risk corridor gets smaller due to further observations and so the risk appears to increase. More often than not, as the hazard zone narrows, the small potential corridor moves off Earth and the risk suddenly drops," said ESA.
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