A “planet killer” asteroid has been found – and it could one day collide with Earth.
The worrying find was made by an astronomer at the Earth and Planets Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science, and has worried astronomers worldwide.
Called 2022 AP7, the giant asteroid is actually one of three new near-Earth asteroids found hiding inside the inner solar system.
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This is an area within the Earth and Venus, and is apparently very hard to explore because the Sun glares directly into it.
However, three massive near-Earth asteroids were found during what has been described as a “brief period of favourable conditions”.
The biggest of the asteroids measures around 1.5 kilometres wide – or as big as 10 Wembley Stadium football pitches.
It is also in the top 5% of asteroids found in space and, if it does crash into Earth, could do so in the next 1,000 years.
The other two found, 2021 LJ4 and 2021 PH27, are much smaller.
Scott Sheppard, from the Carnegie Institution for Science, who is also lead author into a paper on the findings, said: “Our twilight survey is scouring the area within the orbits of Earth and Venus for asteroids.
“So far we have found two large near-Earth asteroids that are about 1 kilometre across, a size that we call ‘planet killers'.
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“Only about 25 asteroids with orbits completely within Earth’s orbit have been discovered to date because of the difficulty of observing near the glare of the sum.”
He noted there were likely only a few of similar size left to find, and that they have orbits that would "impact" the Earth.
The discovery was made using a Dark Energy Camera mounted on a special four-metre-long telescope at the Cerro Tolo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.
Tracy Becker, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute told the New York Times: “There is an extremely low probability of an impact in the foreseeable future.”
She, however, was not involved in the study.
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