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O asteroide mais perigoso conhecido pela humanidade no ano passado não atingirá a Terra por pelo menos 100 anos

O asteroide “2021 QM1” foi oficialmente removido da lista de perigos de asteroides da Agência Espacial Europeia. Outros 1.377 asteróides permanecem. (A impressão do artista de um asteróide correndo em direção à Terra.)

O impacto é descartado em 2052, quando a Agência Espacial Européia (ESA) inicia a contagem regressiva para o Dia do Asteroide

Bem a tempo do Dia Mundial do Asteroide: uma rocha espacial ameaçada que está no topo das listas de risco em todo o mundo há meses, com uma chance real de atingir a Terra em 2 de abril de 2052. Agora, a equipe de asteroides da Agência Espacial Européia está trabalhando com especialistas do Observatório da Europa do Sul ([{” attribute=””>ESO) has officially removed ‘2021 QM1’ from their asteroid risk list, a result of skilled observations and analysis of the faintest asteroid ever observed with one of the most sensitive telescopes ever constructed.

With Asteroid Day Live 2022 set for June 30, we can safely say that the riskiest asteroid known to humankind in the last year will not impact the Earth – at least not for the next century.

What was it like to track this asteroid? Get the full story in ESA’s fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how European experts handle asteroid risks in the official countdown to Asteroid Day live on June 30, airing at 10:25 CEST on and via ESA WebTV.

Stars Hide Once-Risky Asteroid 2021 QM1

Asteroid 2021 QM1, once thought to have a chance of impacting Earth in 2052, was spotted passing through a region of the sky with the Milky Way just behind it. The small, faint, receding asteroid had to be found against a backdrop of thousands of stars, with red crosses indicating the path of the object. Credit: ESO/O. Hainaut

Impact 2052

2021 QM1 was first discovered on August 28, 2021, by the Mount Lemmon Observatory, located north of Tucson, Arizona. At the beginning, nothing stood out as unusual about the discovery – about a dozen new near-Earth asteroids are identified every dark night. Routine follow-up observations were subsequently acquired from telescopes around the globe, but these began to tell a more worrying story.

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“These early observations gave us more information about the asteroid’s path, which we then projected into the future,” said Richard Moissl, ESA’s Head of Planetary Defense.

“We could see its future paths around the Sun, and in 2052 it could come dangerously close to Earth. The more the asteroid was observed, the greater that risk became.”

É importante notar que os cálculos orbitais baseados em apenas algumas noites de observações estão sujeitos a alguma incerteza, razão pela qual os asteróides são frequentemente adicionados à lista de risco da ESA logo após serem descobertos e posteriormente removidos assim que mais dados são coletados e as incertezas diminuir a certeza. , e o asteróide provou ser seguro. Nesta ocasião, isso não foi possível.

Um alinhamento cósmico infeliz

Assim como o perigo parecia aumentar, ocorreu um alinhamento cósmico perfeito: o caminho do asteroide o aproximou do Sol visto da Terra, tornado impossível de ver por vários meses pelo brilho brilhante de nossa estrela hospedeira.

Órbita do Asteróide 2021 QM1

Orbitando 2021 QM1, uma vez que passa perto do Sol no céu, visto da Terra, logo após sua descoberta. Crédito: ESA

“Só tivemos que esperar”, explicou Marco Micheli, astrônomo do Centro de Coordenação de Objetos Próximos à Terra (NEOCC) da Agência Espacial Europeia.

“Mas, para parar as coisas, descobrimos que 2021 QM1 também estava se afastando da Terra em sua órbita atual – o que significa que, no momento em que passou do brilho do sol, pode estar muito fraco para ser detectado.”

Enquanto esperavam, prepararam-se.

Acesso prioritário a um dos telescópios mais poderosos da Terra

Observatório Europeu do Sul Very Large Telescope (VLT) Estava pronto e pronto. Assim que o asteroide de 50 metros de altura se afastar da luz solar – e as condições climáticas permitirem – o VLT do ESO focará seu espelho de 8 metros nas rochas que estão desaparecendo.

A lua dramática atrás do Very Large Telescope do ESO

Um emocionante aglomerado lunar atrás do Very Large Telescope (VLT) do ESO, Chile. Quando a lua se põe, o sol está prestes a nascer no horizonte oposto. O Very Large Telescope (VLT) já fechou os olhos após uma longa noite de observações, operadores de telescópios e astrônomos estão dormindo enquanto técnicos diurnos, engenheiros e astrônomos acordam para um novo dia de trabalho. As operações nunca param no Observatório Astronômico mais produtivo do mundo. Crédito: G.Gillet / ESO

“Tínhamos uma pequena janela para observar nosso perigoso asteroide”, explicou Olivier Hainaut, astrônomo do ESO.

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“Para piorar, estava passando por uma área do céu com[{” attribute=””>Milky Way just behind. Our small, faint, receding asteroid would have to be found against a backdrop of thousands of stars. These would turn out to be some of the trickiest asteroid observations we have ever made”.

Faintest asteroid ever observed

Over the night of May 24, ESO’s VLT took a series of new images. The data arrived and Olivier and Marco began to process them, stacking subsequent observations on top of each other and removing the background stars: it took some time.

VLT Asteroid 2021 QM1

ESO’s Very Large Telescope captures 2021 QM1 which for months topped risk lists around the globe. This pivotal sighting ruled out Earth impact in the year 2052. Over the night of May 24, the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope took a series of images of an asteroid that had topped risk lists around the globe for months. These images were some of the trickiest asteroid experts had taken, as the faint asteroid 2021 QM1 receded from view against a very starry backdrop. A series of images were processed, stacked on top of each other and stars were removed, revealing the faintest asteroid observed. Credit: ESA

The result? A positive detection of the faintest asteroid ever observed. With a magnitude of 27 on the scale used by astronomers to describe the brightness of objects in the sky, 2021 QM1 was 250 million times fainter than the faintest stars visible to the naked eye from a dark spot. (In this astronomical scale of visible magnitudes, the brighter an object appears the lower the value of its magnitude, while the brightest objects reach negative values, e.g. the Sun is magnitude -27).

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Olivier was certain this small blur was in fact an asteroid, and Marco was certain that given its location, it was our asteroid.

Safe at last?

With these new observations, our risky asteroid’s path was refined, ruling out an impact in 2052, and 2021 QM1 was removed from ESA’s risk list. Another 1,377 remain.

Asteroids June 2022 With Gaia

The position of each asteroid at 12:00 CEST on June 13, 2022, is plotted. Each asteroid is a segment representing its motion over 10 days. Inner bodies move faster around the Sun (yellow circle at the center). Blue represents the inner part of the Solar System, where the Near Earth Asteroids, Mars crossers, and terrestrial planets are. The Main Belt, between Mars and Jupiter, is green. The two orange ‘clouds’ correspond to the Trojan asteroids of Jupiter. Credit: © ESA/Gaia/DPAC; CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO, Acknowledgments: P. Tanga (Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur)

More than one million asteroids have been discovered in the Solar System, almost 30 000 of which pass near Earth, with many more expected to be out there. ESA’s Planetary Defence Office, NEOCC and astronomers around the globe are looking up to keep us safe, working together to ensure we know well in advance if an asteroid is discovered on a collision course.

Watch Asteroid Day Live

How worried are the world’s asteroid experts? How did it feel to track humankind’s most risky asteroid? Get the full story in ESA’s 30-minute program counting down to Asteroid Day live on June 30, airing at 10:25 CEST on and on ESA WebTV.

Tunguska Devastation

Fallen trees at Tunguska, Imperial Russia, seen in 1929, 15 km from epicenter of the aerial blast site, caused by the explosion of a meteor in 1908. Credit: Photo N. A. Setrukov, 1928

Asteroid Day is the United Nations-sanctioned day of public awareness of the risks of asteroid impacts, held annually on June 30. This year sees its return to Luxembourg for an in-person event following two years of living entirely in the virtual realm. Asteroid experts from ESA, from across Europe and worldwide will converge on the city to take part in a packed four-hour live program of panels and one-on-one interviews.