According to NASA, the largest asteroid to pass by Earth this year will reach about 1.25 million miles (two million kilometers) of Earth on March 21 (April 1, 1400).
According to According to the US Space AgencyAsteroid 2001 FO32, discovered about 20 years ago, is about 900 meters in diameter, and NASA has announced that it will allow astronomers to observe the asteroid closely.
“We know very well the orbit of FO32 2001 around the Sun,” said Paul Chudas, director of the Center for Near-Object Studies. “However, it is not possible for the asteroid to be more than 1.25 million miles closer to Earth.”
The distance provided by NASA is approximately 5.25 times the distance from Earth to the moon, but this is close enough to classify the 2001 asteroid FO32 as a “potentially dangerous asteroid.” The asteroid also travels at a speed of 124,000 kilometers per hour, which is much faster than other asteroids around the Earth, according to NASA.
NASA scientist Lance Banner says there is very little information about the asteroid at the moment, so its location next to Earth’s orbit provides a great opportunity to learn more about it. According to NASA, when sunlight hits the asteroid’s surface, the minerals in it absorb some wavelengths, while some other materials reflect light. So astronomers hope to study the light reflected on the asteroid’s surface to gain a better understanding of its dimensions and composition.
According to Chudas, the asteroid will be brighter as it moves in the southern skies, so novice astronomers can make observations in some parts of the globe. “Amateur astronomers in the Southern Hemisphere and the lower hemispheres of the Northern Hemisphere can observe the asteroid using telescopes at least eight inches in size on the nights leading up to the event,” he said. “But they probably need star charts to find it.”
More than 95 percent of near-Earth asteroids as large as 2001 FO32 or larger will have no impact on Earth in the next century, according to NASA.