The biggest asteroid of the year passed safely by Earth
An asteroid the size of a house flew by Earth on Wednesday and according to scientists the space rock looked like it was wearing a face mask.
According to data from NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CEOS) the asteroid known as 1998 OR2 is the largest to make a close approach to Earth in the last year. It measured somewhere between 1.1 and 2.5 miles in diameter and rotates once every 4.1 hours.
Close-ish encounter of an asteroid kind
This event happened on Wednesday 29 April at 5:56 a.m. ET and the asteroid made it to minuscule distance of around 3.9 million miles from our planet, roughly 16 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon. The traveling speed was 19,461 miles per hour.
This space rock was first spotted in 1998 by scientists from NASA based at Hawaii’s Haleakala Observatory. The trajectory of this object is well-known for the next couple of centuries at least and there is no chance that it could strike our planet, so say NASA’s experts.
To explain the scale of the distances NASA’s Planetary Defense Group posted a video on Twitter using a basketball to represent the Earth and a tennis ball to represent the moon. At that scale, the two bodies would be located 25 feet apart and an object like an asteroid would be less than the size of a grain of salt.
NEO is a term that refers to any asteroid or comet orbiting the Sun that comes within 121 million miles of the star, and 30 million miles of Earth's orbit. Scientists don't know of any potentially hazardous NEOs that pose an immediate risk to Earth. However, observations of these objects allow astronomers to refine their future trajectories.
"The radar measurements allow us to know more precisely where the asteroid will be in the future, including its future close approaches to Earth. In 2079, asteroid 1998 OR2 will pass Earth about 3.5 times closer than it will this year, so it is important to know its orbit precisely," Flaviane Venditti, a research scientist at Arecibo, said in the statement.