A giant asteroid from the depths of our solar system will fly by Earth at midweek. This is the largest space rock to zoom past the planet since the start of the year.
Estimated to be a little over a mile wide, asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 will make its closest approach to Earth on Wednesday, April 29; this is the closest it has come to the planet in over 100 years.
There is no chance that it will collide with the planet on Wednesday as it will safely glide by at a distance of around 4 million miles. To put this into perspective, this is about 16 times farther away than the moon is from the Earth.
Space rocks fly past the planet on a daily basis but according to Earthsky, this one in particular is the largest to zip by the Earth so far in 2020.
Although it poses no threat to hitting the Earth this time by, asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 has been classified as a “Potentially Hazardous Asteroid.”
“Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth,” NASA said.
By definition, any asteroid that is larger than 500 feet across and is projected to come within 4.6 million miles of Earth is called a PHA.
At over 5,000 feet wide, 1998 OR2 would cause some serious damage if it were on a crash course with the planet.
On June 30, 1908, an asteroid estimated to be around 262 feet across exploded over an uninhabited area of Siberia while entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The explosion had a force equivalent to that of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption, flattening 500,000 acres of forest. This is known as the Tunguska event.
However, it pales in comparison to the asteroid that is believed to have caused the dinosaurs to go extinct, which is estimated to have been around 6 miles across.
At 4 million miles away, the one-mile-wide rock may seem like it is too far away to see, but observers with a decent telescope may be able to spot it from their backyards, as long as Mother Nature cooperates.
Onlookers will need a telescope with a primary mirror of at least 6 or 8 inches that is pointed to the southern sky near the constellation Hydra, EarthSky said. At first, it may just look like another star, but over time, it will slowly drift in a different way than the stars around it.