Massive Asteroid Twice The Size Of World’s Tallest Building Will Pass Earth Next Month
An enormous asteroid reported to be twice the size of the tallest building on Earth is set to fly past our planet next month.
Astronomers in New Mexico first discovered the asteroid, named 231937 (2001 FO32), in 2001. At a mile-wide and half a mile-long, the gigantic space rock will make its closest approach to Earth at approximately 4.03pm GMT on March 21, coming as close as 1.2 million miles away.
Although this is around five times further away than the moon, the close encounter is still classed as a risk, a label which applies to any large asteroids coming within 4.5 million miles of our home planet that ‘could’ hit Earth some time in the future.
Asteroid 231937 is said to be the biggest asteroid to ‘come close’ to the Earth this year. Being as big as one mile (0.8km to 1.7km) in diameter, it is also understood to be more than twice the size of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building on Earth.
According to SpaceReference.org:
2001 FO32 orbits the sun every 810 days (2.22 years), coming as close as 0.30 AU and reaching as far as 3.11 AU from the sun. Its orbit is highly elliptical.
Based on its brightness and the way it reflects light, 2001 FO32 is probably between 0.767 to 1.714 kilometers in diameter, making it larger than ~97% of asteroids but small compared to large asteroids.
According to NASA:
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.
Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) of 0.05 au or less are considered PHAs. Occasionally, asteroids’ orbital paths are influenced by the gravitational tug of planets, which cause their paths to alter.
Scientists believe stray asteroids or fragments from earlier collisions have slammed into Earth in the past, playing a major role in the evolution of our planet.
It should be possible to spot the asteroid from Earth using an eight-inch aperture telescope.
The best time to get a good look from the UK would be just after sunset on March 21, by looking slightly above the southern horizon. Here, space watchers may be able to see it gliding through the southern constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius.
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