Categories: Science

Mile-wide asteroid to safely miss Earth at 3.9 million miles


Travelling at about 19,000 miles per hour, an asteroid will safely pass the planet at a distance of 3.9 million miles.

The asteroid is named 1998 OR2. It is expected to have its closest distance to Earth at about 3.9 million miles. This is an extremely close distance by space standards.

Despite its close proximity, NASA said that there is no need to worry as it will safely pass Earth. 1998 OR2 will make its closest approach to the planet at around 6AM ET.

Safe flyby

Although 3.9 million miles is a close approach when considering the vastness of space, astronomers agree that the asteroid poses no threat to the planet. In fact, this space object is so far that it cannot be seen by the naked eye or even a small telescope.

Asteroid 1998 OR2 falls under the “potentially hazardous” category according to NASA. Due it its extreme distance, the asteroid will not be visible to the naked eye. However, NASA believes that an amateur astronomer with a decent telescope should be able to spot it.

An asteroid will be categorized as potentially hazardous if it is bigger than 500 feet. In terms of distance, an asteroid will be potentially hazardous if it comes within 5 million miles of the planet’s orbit.

As the name suggests, asteroid 1998 OR2 was first spotted in 1998. The NASA Near Earth-Earth Asteroid tracking program discovered it. Since then, it has been regularly tracked.

Using this tracking method, astronomers can predict an the space object’s path. Understanding the path of the asteroid can help astronomers accurately pinpoint its flightplan.

The objects close flyby will allow astronomers tot study its composition. Astronomers constantly study space objects that makes a close approach to Earth in order to find a deeper understanding of how their trajectory.

How to watch the flyby

The asteroid will be invisible to the naked eye, even with the use of a small telescope. However, there are a number of observatories that will livestream the space object’s flyby.

The Virtual Telescope Project will start livestreaming at 2:30PM ET. Astronoer Gianluca Masi operates this project.

For those who have a decent telescope, Center for Near Earth Object Studies manager Paul Chondas suggests to use the Sky and Telescope’s star chart. Chondas added that it should be visible under dark skies.

After this flyby, 1998 OR2 will make its next close approach Earth in the next 49 years.

Image courtesy by Andy Holmes/Unsplash

Yen Palec

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Yen Palec

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