Giant asteroid will zip past Earth on April 29, but don't be scared, the humongous space rock won't hit us
1998 OR2 has a diameter of 1.8-4.1 km and will come as close as 6.3 million km from us
A massive and “potentially hazardous asteroid” — (52768) 1998 OR2 — is expected to zip past Earth end of this month. But we have nothing to fear from asteroid 1998 OR2's Earth flyby on April 29, according to scientists.
The space rock will safely pass Earth by 3.9 million miles/6.2 million kilometers, says NASA’s Asteroid Watch. The near-Earth asteroid, which is estimated to be between 1.1 miles and 2.5 miles wide, will pass our planet at a distance 16 times further than the distance to the Moon.
The Virtual Telescope Project in Rome says that it will have a close, but “safe, encounter” with us. “When we imaged it, asteroid 1998 OR2 was at about 12 million km from us. This 1.8-4.1 km large asteroid will come as close as 6.3 millions of km from us next April 29, more than 16 times the average lunar distance: it will NOT hit us! – becoming bright enough to be seen with modest optical equipment, if you know where to look,” says Virtual Telescope Project, which will show it live, online. The live feed will start on April 28 at 18:00 UTC.
“The orbit is well understood and it will pass harmlessly at 16 times the distance to our moon. No one should have any concern about it,” says NASA’s Asteroid Watch.
Both the Virtual Telescope Project and the Arecibo Observatory have caught glimpses of the asteroid, which is traveling through space at around 31,320 kilometers per hour. Radar data confirm that 1998 OR2 is approximately 2 km in diameter and rotates once every 4.1 hours, as was suggested by optical observations, says the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
In a statement issued on August 5, 1998, when the asteroid was first discovered, NASA had described it along with another newly discovered one, which was dubbed as 1998 OH. “Both are large enough to cause global effects if one impacted Earth, and both are classified as potentially hazardous objects because they pass periodically near Earth's orbit. Both asteroids are 1 to 3 kilometers (about 1 mile) in diameter,” it says. It is classed as a potentially hazardous asteroid, because all asteroids above a certain size (140 meters) and within a certain distance of Earth (7,480,000 kilometres or 4,650,000 miles) are automatically classified as such.
The year 2020 will mark the asteroid's closest flyby in at least a century. “The next time it will come close to Earth will be in 2079, when it will swing by at a distance of 1.8 million kilometers (1.1 million miles). That's around 4.6 times the lunar distance,” reports ScienceAlert.
“That 2079 sweep past Earth will still be a big deal. Asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 is the largest known of all large Near-Earth Objects that’ll pass less than five times the Earth-moon distance over the next two centuries,” says EarthSky.
The flyby this month promises to be a great opportunity for astronomers to examine the giant space rock. “Closest approach will be April 29 around 5:56 am Eastern Daylight Time (09:56 UTC). Professional observatories have been pointing their telescopes at the huge space rock already. Amateur astronomers with smaller telescopes will also have an opportunity to see it as a slow-moving ‘star,’” says EarthSky, which has also given charts and tips for observers.
While it is the largest asteroid that is expected to fly by Earth so far this year, it is not the largest ever. “That honor belongs to the asteroid 3122 Florence (1981 ET3), which flew by and luckily missed colliding with Earth on September 1, 2017. It will make another pass again on September 2, 2057. That asteroid is estimated to be between two-and-a-half and five-and-a-half miles wide,” reports CNN.