An asteroid as wide as the Golden Gate Bridge will swoop past Earth next month. But even though it will be the largest and fastest asteroid to fly our planet this year, there is no reason to panic.
The space rock, officially named 231937 (2001 FO32), is approximately 0.5 to 1 mile (0.8 to 1.7 kilometers) in diameter and will reach 1.25 million miles (2 million kilometers) from the Earth at 11:03 am EST (1603 GMT). on March 21, close enough and large enough to be classified as “potentially dangerous”, according to a database published by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
An asteroid is designated as “potentially dangerous” when its orbit intersects that of Earth at a distance of no more than 4.65 million miles (7.5 million kilometers) and has a diameter greater than about 500 feet ( 140 meters), according to the NASA Center. for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).
Related: The 7 strangest asteroids: strange space rocks in our solar system
Small asteroids pass between the Earth and the Moon several times a month, and its fragments enter and break into the Earth’s atmosphere almost daily, according to NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO).
Telescopes in New Mexico that are part of the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program, a program of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory funded by the US Air Force and NASA, detected the asteroid on March 23, 2001. , according EarthSky. Observatories have monitored it ever since. The scientists used these observations to calculate the asteroid’s orbit and determine how close the space rock will get to Earth when it passes nearly 77,000 mph (124,000 km / h).
No known asteroid poses a significant risk to Earth for the next 100 years. The biggest currently known threat is an asteroid named (410777) 2009 FD, which has a 1 in 714 (less than 0.2%) chance of hitting Earth in 2185. according to NASA PDCO.
NASA is studying methods to deflect asteroids that end up on a collision course with Earth, such as by using gravity of a flying spaceship to slowly pull asteroids out of its path to a safe distance, according to NASA PDCO.
If you have a telescope with an aperture of at least 20 centimeters (8 inches), it may be able to detect rapidly moving space rock, according to EarthSky. To catch a glimpse of the southern US, point your telescope south-southeast between the constellations Sagittarius and Corona Australis at 4:45 am EST on March 20.
Originally posted on Live Science.