An asteroid twice as wide as the size of the tallest building in the world will pass Earth in March, and was described by NASA as a “potential danger”.
The asteroid, named 231937 (2001 FO32), is unlikely to hit Earth as it will be 1.2 million miles away from the planet – five times as far from the moon.
Nevertheless, NASA calls any space rock within 93 million miles of us a “near-Earth object,” three-quarters of the 120 million miles away to Mars.
The half-mile and a half-mile wide space rock will make its closest approach to our planet at around 16:03 GMT on March 21. It has been described as “potentially dangerous” because it “may” hit the planet at some point in the future of the solar system.
Asteroid 231937 is the largest space rock approaching Earth this year, and it is 1.7 kilometers long and more than twice the size of the tallest building on Earth – Burj Khalifa.
The asteroid should be able to be seen through an eight-inch telescope just after sunset on March 21 by looking slightly above the southern horizon.
Asteroid 231937 is the largest space rock approaching Earth this year, and its height is 1.7 km and is more than twice the size of the tallest building on Earth – Burj Khalifa
NASA calls any space rock within 93 million miles of us a “near-Earth object,” which is three-quarters of the 120 million miles away to Mars.
The asteroid was first discovered in 2001 by a group of telescopes in New Mexico that is part of the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program.
The MIT project is funded by the US Air Force and NASA and it discovered the space rock on March 23, 2001 and has been under surveillance since then.
Using these observations, astronomers calculated its orbit, found how close it was to Earth and determined that it was heading at 77,000 miles per hour.
SpaceReference.org wrote about the asteroid: “Depending on its brightness and the way it reflects light, FO32 2001 would likely have a diameter of between 0.767 to 1.714 kilometers, making it larger than ~ 97% of asteroids but small compared to large asteroids.”
The asteroid and Earth appear to the left of this orbital map on the “blue” Earth’s orbit line – the asteroid’s orbit can be seen by the long white lines
The asteroid should be able to be seen through an eight-inch telescope just after sunset on March 21 by looking slightly above the southern horizon. The pink point is the asteroid and the lighter region is the sky visible from the United Kingdom on March 21 after sunset
It might be possible to see the space rock as it rushed past the planet in March if you had a telescope with an aperture of at least eight inches.
The asteroid will be low in the southern sky, so it can be difficult to see from the northern hemisphere, according to EarthSky.org.
To find him appearing directly above the horizon in the southern sky, he will glide across the southern constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius.
It will be visible just above the horizon in the southern sky just after sunset if viewed from the UK and just before dawn if viewed from the southern US.
NASA is closely monitoring all near-Earth asteroids to determine if any of them can come close to hitting the planet.
A massive asteroid twice as wide as the size of the tallest building in the world – Burj Khalifa (center) – will “surpass” Earth in March
It is a broad definition – it covers any object within about 93 million miles of Earth – that which it calls “dangerous” comes within 4.6 million miles and is at least 500 feet wide.
There are currently no asteroids that pose a significant threat to life on Earth for at least the next century, according to NASA, with only one 0.2 percent chance of hitting the planet in 2185.
Meanwhile, space agencies around the world are looking at potential solutions to keep any future asteroid from hitting Earth.
NASA has considered using gravity from a flying spacecraft to “pull an asteroid” into a new path.
Astronomers are looking for asteroids over 450 feet high because they can cause “catastrophic damage”
Researchers have discovered most asteroids that are around 1 km in size, but are now looking for those around 459 feet (140 meters) high – because they could cause catastrophic damage.
Although no one knows when the next big impact will happen, scientists have found themselves under pressure to predict – and intercept – its arrival.
The impression of the artist in the photo
“Sooner or later we will have … little or no effect,” said Rolf Densing, who heads the European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Darmstadt.
It may not happen in our lifetimes, he said, but “the risk that Earth will one day hit a devastating event is extremely high.”
“At the moment, there is not much we can do.”
Source: Agence France-Presse