Science

Largest asteroid to come closest to Earth today at 124,000 kmph


Washington: The largest asteroid to visit Earth in 2021 is passing by our planet on Sunday (March 21) at a speed of about 124,000 kmph.

Although this speed is faster than the speed at which most asteroids encounter Earth, there is no threat of a collision with our planet, NASA said earlier this month.

Called 2001 FO32, the near-Earth asteroid will make its closest approach at a distance of about two million kilometres.

“The reason for the asteroid’s unusually speedy close approach is its highly inclined and elongated (or eccentric) orbit around the Sun, an orbit that is tilted 39 degrees to Earth’s orbital plane,” NASA said.

“This orbit takes the asteroid closer to the Sun than Mercury and twice as far from the Sun as Mars.”

The asteroid is about 0.8 to 1.7 kilometres in diameter, according to a report in Live Science.

“We know the orbital path of 2001 FO32 around the Sun very accurately since it was discovered 20 years ago and has been tracked ever since,” said Paul Chodas, Director of the Centre for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), which is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said in a statement.

“There is no chance the asteroid will get any closer to Earth than 1.25 million miles.”

Still, that distance is close in astronomical terms, which is why 2001 FO32 has been designated a “potentially hazardous asteroid.”

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