EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A group of international researchers have discovered three new near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) hidden within the inner solar system, according to a study published in The Astronomical Journal.
Experts say this area, located inside the orbits of Earth and Venus, can be challenging for observations due to the sun’s glare.
One of the asteroids, named 2022 AP7, is 1.5 kilometers wide and catching the eye of astronomers since it may someday have an orbit that would put it in Earth’s path. This potentially hazardous near-Earth object is the largest found in nearly eight years, the researcher said.
The two other asteroids, 2021 LJ4 and 2021 PH27, have orbits that would keep them safely away from our planet.
According to a release from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, astronomers have only two brief 10-minute windows each night to survey the area where the asteroids were spotted.
“There are likely only a few NEAs with similar sizes left to find, and these large undiscovered asteroids likely have orbits that keep them interior to the orbits of Earth and Venus most of the time,” astronomer Scott S. Sheppard explained.
Sheppard also told the observatory that there are about 25 asteroids with paths completely within Earth’s orbit that have been discovered due to the difficulties from the Sun’s glare.
In the release, Sheppard described 2022 AP7 as a “planet killer,” given its size and the fact that just one other asteroid of similar size and location has been detected.
The team of researchers used the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) which is mounted on the Victor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.