The largest asteroid to pass by Earth in 2021 is also one of the fastest.
An asteroid similar in size to the Golden Gate Bridge will whip past Earth later this month — the largest and fastest asteroid to pass close to our Planet this year. But don’t worry, it won’t get too close. The space rock will travel a distance of about 2 million km away from our planet.
According to researchers, the diameter of the asteroid 2001 FO32 can reach 1.7 km. Of course, if hit the Earth it will not reach the surface intact, but meeting such a large rock would have very serious consequences for life on the entire Planet.
Although there’s no risk of impact, the space rock is of interest also because it’s one of the fastest space rocks known to fly by Earth. It’s traveling at about 76,980 miles per hour (123,887 km/h) or 21 miles (34.4 km) per second, relative to Earth. In contrast, Earth travels around the Sun at about 18 miles (30 km) per second. Since 2001 FO32 is good-sized and occasionally passes near Earth, it’s been classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid. Its orbit is well known, and it poses no risk of impact.
On March 21, 2021, FO32 will be closest to Earth at 16:03 UTC at a distance of about 2 million kilometers or about about 5 lunar distances. Based on its brightness and the way it reflects light, the 2001 FO32 is probably 0.767 to 1.714 km in diameter, making it larger than 97% of the all asteroids we know.
“This is the closest predicted approach in 2021 for any moderately large asteroid, where ‘moderately large’ means at least several hundred meters in size,” Paul Chodas, the Director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, told CBS News on Wednesday.
No known asteroid poses a significant risk to Earth for the next 100 years. The current biggest known threat is an asteroid called (410777) 2009 FD, which has a 1 in 714 (less than 0.2%) chance of hitting Earth in 2185, according to NASA’s PDCO.
If you have a telescope with an aperture of at least 8 inches (20 centimeters), you might be able to spot the fast-moving space rock, according to EarthSky. To catch a glimpse in the southern U.S., point your telescope south-southeast between the constellations of Sagittarius and Corona Australis at 4:45 a.m. EST on March 20.
For information on monitoring, see TheSkyLive.