Asteroid 1998 OR2 will Fly by Earth on 29th April

Asteroid 1998 OR2 will Fly by Earth on 29th April

Asteroid 1998 OR2 will Fly by Earth on 29th April
Image Credits: Daily Research News

Although it is expected to be a safe flyby, asteroid 1998 OR2 will come within 4 million miles of Earth.

A massive asteroid is on its way to fly past Earth by the end of this month. Scientists assured us that this potentially hazardous piece of rock won’t be dangerous for our planet. At the closest point, it will be at a distance of 3.9 million miles from Earth. According to Business Insider, the asteroid 1998 OR2 is moving at around 20,000 miles per hour.  

Historical Background of Asteroid 1998 OR2

Asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 is an old cosmic friend of Earth that was discovered on 24th July 1998. The discovery was made at the Haleakala Observatory (in Hawaii) by the astronomers of the NEAT program. Researchers were also able to retrieve its ‘precovery images’ from the old archives of 1987 and 1996.

This asteroid has an observation arc of 32 years and its trajectory (and orbit) is known until 2197. This 2-mile-wide asteroid is categorized as one of the brightest and presumably largest among all the known potentially hazardous asteroids.

Why is this Asteroid “Potentially Dangerous”?

The fact that NASA has declared this asteroid as “potentially dangerous” is what prompted some alarmists to spread fake news. Despite this warning, Asteroid 1998 OR2 is NOT going to crash into us during this flyby. Instead, it is considered a possible threat because it often visits the planet’s orbit. For this reason, it might cause destruction on a future impact.

The classification scheme of NASA suggests that an asteroid is potentially hazardous if it intersects Earth’s orbit at a distance less than 4.6 million miles.

Trajectory and Other Visits of Asteroid 1998 OR2

This is neither the first nor the last time when this asteroid is intersecting the orbit of our planet. The historical evidence has shown that it visited us at least twice (1987 and 1996) before its discovery (1998). Similarly, the study of its trajectory indicates that it will come back again in May 2031. During that flyby, it will be further away from us at a distance of around 12 million miles.

(52768) 1998 OR2 takes 3 years and 8 months to complete a lap around the sun. Its trajectory is taking this asteroid further out into the solar system. The next two flybys will take place in 2048 and 2062 and the distance will increase every time. However, the closest flyby of asteroid 1998 OR2 will be observed on 16th April 2079. During that approach, it will intersect our orbit at a distance of only 1.1 million miles.

How Can We See this Huge Asteroid?

At the closest approach (during this flyby), the (52768) 1998 OR2 will be 3.9 million miles away from us. It will happen at 0956 GMT and professional observatories will use their powerful telescopes to see this space rock. It will also be visible with smaller telescopes and may appear as a slow-moving star. If you are an amateur astronomer who needs assistance, click here to get all the necessary guidelines.

The people who don’t own a telescope can also view the asteroid through a FREE, online viewing. The Virtual Telescope Project of Rome will host this public viewing on the 28th of April.

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