why not worry about the possible impact in 2022

why not worry about the possible impact in 2022

The asteroid 2009 FJ1 It could impact Earth on May 6, 2022. However, it is not the apocalypse and it will not destroy the planet or life as we know it. This is all you have to know about this asteroid to live with peace of mind until May of next year.

From the outset, it has a 1 in 3,984 chance of hitting the Earth, according to the POT. Both the US agency and the European Space Agency (ESA) carry a record of all objects that have an orbit that passes close to the Earth and that they could impact her. These objects are called NEO. In that list appears the asteroid 2009 FJ1 and the calculated date with which it is most likely to hit is, as we said, May 6, 2022.

This asteroid was observed for the first time in 2009 and researchers were able to track it for a total of 14 days. Hypertextual Detlef Koschny, head of ESA’s Planetary Defense Office. And the forecasts threw a date, but Why not worry about asteroid 2009 FJ1?

What is asteroid 2009 FJ1 like?

To know whether or not we should be afraid of this asteroid, but also of others, the first thing is to know what they are like. In this case we have little information, but it is enough not to be afraid of it. “All we know about the object is its brightness, that is, how much light we get from it,” explains Koschny. This asteroid it is believed to be 13 meters in diameter, which would make it little dangerous.

“The size of 13m is an estimate, based on an assumed reflectivity of 14%. We do not know this reflectivity, it could be between 5 or 25%, in extreme cases 40% is possible. If the reflectivity was only 5% It had to be as big as 23m; for 25%, the size would be only 10m, “he says. “So actually, the estimate of size should be ‘about 10-20m’“says the head of the Planetary Defense Office at ESA.

Let’s get to the worst: asteroid 2009 FJ1 measures 20 meters in diameter. Due to the Chelyabinsk event (Russia) in 2013 we know what is the effect of an object of that size falling on Earth. “Most of the material disintegrated [al entrar en la atmósfera], but there was still one large piece (~ 0.5 t) and many small pieces from millimeters to centimeters that reached the ground. But there was definitely not a big impact with a crater, “says Koschny. So if this were the case “most of the material will disintegrate”, although “some meteorites would fall to the ground”.

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What asteroid 2009 FJ1 is made of is also important. A meteor made of rocks is not the same as iron. The iron ones are much worse. “Take the Shikote-Alin fall in 1947: there, a 100-ton iron object (that is, about 2 to 4 meters in diameter) created a series of small impact craters, up to ~ 30 meters in diameter. This is because iron is heavier, that is to say, it has more energy and it does not break as easily as rock “, says Koschny. However, the planetary scientist clarifies,” it must be taken into account that only a small percentage of asteroids are made of iron. This is most likely a rocky object. But we can’t say for sure. “

“There is no need to worry”

But the most important thing is that the chances of impact are low, despite the standards of space agencies. Furthermore, they are based on “calculations from 12 years ago, so unfortunately we cannot really be sure of that number.” And it is that since 2009 the asteroid 2009 FJ1 has not been seen again. “To get an updated orbit, we would need to look at the object again. Until now it was too faint to be visible. Which is a good sign: if it had been close, we would have picked it up again.” And it is that any step close to other planets or objects in recent years could have modified its orbit enough so that the impact does not occur.

Koschny concludes that there is “no need to worry” about this asteroid. These calculations are made so that we are not caught by surprise if one day a meteor falls, but the most dangerous are much larger. In addition, as soon as the 2009 FJ1 asteroid is observed again, we will know more about its current orbit. In the event that it were to impact the Earth, we will know in time to clear the place where it falls, if necessary. And is that what the offices that study NEOs are there for that: to prevent and warn if an asteroid is dangerous. And, at the moment, this does not appear to be.

An earlier version of this article was published in January 2021.