Asteroids are typically found between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter in a region known as the asteroid belt, where millions of space rocks travel. However, astronomers have been left stunned to discover a space rock orbiting near to Venus, bringing the hunt for asteroids closer to the Sun. The strange space rock has been dubbed 2020 AV2, having only been discovered this year, despite only being a couple weeks into 2020.
Astronomers have placed it in a new classification of asteroids called Vatiras – a mashup of Venus and Atiras, which are asteroids that orbit near to Earth.
Russian amateur astronomer Filipp Romanov photographed 2020 AV2 on January 8 and told Space Weather: “Until 2020, no known asteroids had orbits contained within that of Venus.
“On 4 January 2020, the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) discovered this one, and I was able to photograph it only 4 days later using a remotely-controlled iTelescope in New Mexico.”
Space Weather added: “Between Mars and Jupiter lies the Asteroid Belt where millions of space rocks orbit the sun. It’s where asteroids are supposed to be.
“And that’s why newfound asteroid 2020 AV2 is so strange: It circles the sun entirely inside the orbit of Venus.
“There’s already a small class of asteroids called ‘Atiras’ (named after the first one confirmed in 2003) that have orbits entirely inside Earth.
“Fewer than two dozen have been found. The discovery of 2020 AV2 takes things a step closer to the sun.”
While the chances of a major asteroid hitting Earth are small – NASA believes there is a one in 300,000 chance every year that a space rock which could cause regional damage will hit – the devastating prospect is not impossible.
NASA experts have warned there is a “100 percent” chance an asteroid will hit our world.
Greg Leonard, a senior research specialist at Catalina Sky Survey – a NASA funded project supported by the Near Earth Object Observation Program (NEOO) – told Bryan Walsh for the latter’s new book End Times: “I know the chances of me dying in an asteroid impact is less than dying from a lightning strike.
“But I also know that if we do nothing, sooner or later, there’s a one hundred percent chance that one will get us. So I feel privileged to be doing something.”