The year started in the most stressful way for astronomers who keep an eye on objects that could become potentially dangerous for our planet. Initial data from 2022 suggested that a space rock was headed toward Earth and would impact in about 18 months . With each new sighting, the risk of impact seemed to increase.
“In my almost ten years at ESA, I have never seen such a dangerous object,” Marco Micheli, an astronomer at ESA’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Center (NEOCC), said in a statement.
Minimal or no risk
We now know that the asteroid poses no threat to Earth. It is totally safe. This is the conclusion of the latest report from the European Space Agency that shows that the new observations of the asteroid show that it does not represent any risk to Earth when it passes next year.
Known as 2022 AE1, the asteroid was discovered on January 6 and was estimated to be about 70 meters across ; more than three times the size of the small asteroid that disintegrated over the skies of Chelyabinsk, Russia, on February 15, 2013. And about the same size as the space rock that triggered the 1908 Tunguska event in Siberia, which released enough energy to kill animals and crush some 80 million trees in an area of 2,150 square km.
The next day, an automated system called Asteroid Orbit Determination (AstOD), which is part of ESA’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Center (NEOCC), flagged a possible future impact with Earth on July 4. of 2023 (on the Independence Day of the United States, which gave a more dramatic and Hollywood effect to the event).
It was located in scale 1 of Turin.
The scale is meant to convey the gravity of a given asteroid’s potential to collide with Earth. It ranges from 0 to 10, with a 10 representing that there is no doubt that a collision is going to occur and that the impacting object is large enough to precipitate a global disaster. All other known asteroids on the Torino scale are currently at level 0. They pose no risk of hitting Earth. 2022 AE1 was placed at 1 on the Turin scale .
Later on January 20, 2022, asteroid 2022 AE1 entered the Eliminated Objects list.
The latest estimates suggest that 2022 AE1 will safely fly by Earth in early July 2023 at a distance of about 10 million km.
What are the 10 levels of the Turin scale (also called the Torino scale)?
(The Turin scale is aimed at the general public; for specialists, there is the Palermo scale).
Level 0 : There is no danger. The probability of a collision is zero.
Level 1: Calculations show that the chance of collision is extremely low, and new telescopic observations will probably cause it to be reassigned to level 0.
Level 2: The object has a close approach near the Earth. It needs to be monitored, although new observations are expected to cause it to be reassigned to level 0.
Level 3: Calculations give a 1% or greater chance of being able to collide and cause localized destruction. It deserves the attention of astronomers.
Level 4: Same as above. Calculations give a 1% chance, or better, of being able to collide and cause localized destruction. It deserves the attention of astronomers.
Level 5: The object poses a serious but vague threat of regional devastation. Critical attention from astronomers is needed to determine whether or not the collision will take place.
Level 6: A close encounter with a large object that poses a serious but vague threat of global catastrophe. Critical attention from astronomers is needed to determine whether or not the collision will take place.
Level 7: If the encounter with the object takes place in this century, it poses a serious but vague threat of global catastrophe. An international contingency plan and a conclusive assessment of whether or not the collision will take place would be necessary.
Level 8: The collision of the object against the planet is safe, capable of causing localized destruction. These events occur between once every 50 years and once every 1,000 years.
Level 9: Collision is certain, and may cause unprecedented regional destruction. Such events occur, on average, between once every 10,000 years and once every 100,000 years.
Level 10: The collision is totally certain and will cause a global climate catastrophe that may endanger the future of life on Earth as we know it. An event that occurs once every 100,000 years or more on average.
Referencia: Agencia Espacial Europea / NEOCC “The rise and fall of the riskiest asteroid in a decade” 2022 esa.int/Safety_Security/Planetary_Defence/The_rise_and_fall_of_the_riskiest_asteroid_in_a_decade
Referencia: : Morrison, D., Chapman, C. R., Steel, D., and Binzel R. P. “Impacts and the Public : Communicating the Nature of the Impact Hazard”