Probably the largest asteroid that scientists estimate will come close to Earth this year, is due to fly past our planet on Sunday (March 21). The celestial body with the name “2001 FO32” and a diameter of several hundred meters will approach the earth to about 2 million kilometers, announced the US space agency NASA. That is more than five times as far as the distance from the earth to the moon.
“Stable and not on a risk course”
There is no danger of a collision – neither now nor in the future, says NASA. “It is stable, it is not on a risk course,” said the asteroid expert from the European space agency Esa, Detlef Koschny, of the dpa.
“We know the orbit of” 2001 FO32 “around the sun very well; we have followed it since its discovery 20 years ago,” explains Paul Chodas of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies in California. “There is no way the asteroid could get closer than 2 million kilometers to Earth.”
2052 the closest approximation
With the appropriate equipment, the asteroid could also be seen by amateur astronomers, said Koschny. Two million kilometers are nothing in the dimension of the solar system.
According to the information, “2001 FO32”, which orbits the sun once every 810 days, will fly past the earth exceptionally quickly at around 124,000 km / h – and will not approach it again until 2052 afterwards. The NASA scientists want to use the chance during the flyby to examine the asteroid more closely. “We don’t know much about him,” said Koschny.
Asteroid Defense Project “Hera”
The Esa have their own programs to look at the objects that are critical for the earth. “2001 FO32” would be – if it wasn’t flying at a harmless distance – its size would be a typical candidate for an attempt to distract it from its career in order to avoid a possible collision with the earth. An asteroid of this size could destroy an entire country, said Koschny. For comparison: the explosion of a 20-meter chunk in 2013 wreaked havoc in the Russian metropolis of Chelyabinsk. The shock wave injured around 1,500 people.
Just last year, Esa initiated an asteroid defense project named after the Greek goddess “Hera”. The aim is to investigate how the impact of a NASA probe on an asteroid.