An asteroid observed in August 2021 appeared on a collision path with Earth. However, a substantial observation campaign that included one of the world’s most powerful telescopes ultimately pointed out the space rock as a risk.
As per the European Space Agency (ESA), it was at one point “the riskiest asteroid known to humankind,” as it is evident to slam into our planet in April 2052 even after numerous observations and recalculations of its orbit.
It took the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile to ultimately rule out the crash. It’s one of the strongest optical telescopes in the world. The telescope had to trace the 160-feet-wide space rock as it moved so far away from Earth that it ultimately became “the faintest asteroid ever observed,” according to ESA.
Numerous telescopes observed 2021 QM1 shortly after it was observed by Mount Lemmon observatory in Tucson, Arizona. Primarily, with every new observation, it looked more and more evident that the asteroid might come “dangerously close” to Earth. An asteroid 160 feet wide can cause damage that is equivalent to the nuclear bomb that was dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima at the end of World War II. Thus scientists were worried about the calculations.
“These early observations gave us more information about the asteroid’s path, which we then projected into the future,” Richard Moissl, ESA’s head of planetary defense, announced in a statement. “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.”