According to NASA, the largest ‘potentially dangerous asteroid’ of 2021 will safely drive closest to the Earth, tonight at 9:30 pm IST (4:00 pm GMT), at a speed of 124,000 kmph.
As per NASA’s reports, this would be a significant opportunity for astronomers to get a close look of a planetoid (or asteroid) that was discovered in March 2001 by the LINEAR (Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research) program in Socorro, New Mexico. It was named as ‘2001 FO32’ and was created at the “dawn of our solar system”, said NASA.
It will make a closest approach to Earth from a distance of 0.0135 AU (2.02 million km or 1.25 million miles) tonight at 9:30 pm IST. This distance is five times of the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
Director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), Paul Chodas stated, “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.” The CNEOS comes under NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in southern California.
An asteroid expert at the European Space Agency, Detlef Koschny said, “It’s stable, it’s not on a risky course”. He added, “We don’t know much about it”, however, it will be viewed by amateur astronomers (who are working on planetoid-deflecting projects) using suitable devices.
‘2001 FO32’ is a near-Earth asteroid which takes 810 days to complete one revolution around the sun. It is a potentially hazardous asteroid of Apollo group and its diameter ranges between 440-680 m (or 1400-2200 ft).
Specific information about the asteroid:
- The asteroid will make its closest approach at a speed of 124,000 kmph; this is faster than the speed of other planetoids that visit the Earth.
- This planetoid is extremely inclined and its orbit is elongated; both of these factors contribute to its speedy close approach to Earth.
- As per the reports by the Paris Observatory, the planetoid will be at its closest to Earth at around 4.00pm GMT (9.30pm IST) on March 21, 2021.
- When nearby the Southern skies, the planetoid will appear the brightest, said Chodas, further adding, “Amateur astronomers in the southern hemisphere and at low northern latitudes should be able to see this asteroid using moderate size telescopes with apertures of at least 8 inches in the nights leading up to closest approach, but they will probably need star charts to find it.”
- Last year on 29th April, the 1998 OR2 asteroid passed by Earth; the approach made by 2001 FO32 will be three times closer than the previous notable approach of 1998 OR2.
- This planetoid’s approach poses no threat to the Earth, said NASA. It further stated, that the next time it will pass by Earth in 2052.
- The scientists are deciding to utilise a flyby for closely studying this planetoid