Astronomy and Space

Largest Asteroid to Pass by Earth in 2021 Will Be at Its Closest on March 21

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has recently reported Asteroid 2001 FO32, the largest asteroid predicted to pass by our planet this year, to be at its closest on March 21, 2021.

The near-Earth asteroid’s closest approach will be at a distance of about 1.25 million miles (2 million kilometers) or 5 1/4 times the distance from Earth to the Moon. NASA explained that such distance is close in astronomical term. Asteroid 2001 FO32 will pass by at about 77,000 mph (124,000 kph) during the approach.

There is no need to worry though since according to NASA, “there is no threat of a collision with our planet now or for centuries to come.”

“We know the orbital path of 2001 FO32 around the Sun very accurately, since it was discovered 20 years ago and has been tracked ever since. There is no chance the asteroid will get any closer to Earth than 1.25 million miles.”

– Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), which is managed by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The March 21, 2021 encounter is expected to provide astronomers a rare opportunity to get a good look at and a more precise understanding of the said asteroid.

More About Asteroid 2001 FO32

  • Asteroid 2001 FO32 was discovered in March 2001 by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program
    • Based on optical measurements, had then been estimated to be roughly 3,000 feet (1 kilometer) wide
  • A more recent follow-up observation by NEOWISE suggests that the object is likely less than 1 kilometer in diameter
  • Analysis by the NEOWISE team shows that it is between 1,300 to 2,230 feet (440 to 680 meters) wide
  • Asteroid 2001 FO32 will be the largest asteroid to pass this close to our planet in 2021
  • Although 2001 FO32 is somewhat smaller than 1998 OR2, the last notably large asteroid with close approach, it will be three times nearer to Earth

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Source: NASA, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA| Official Twitter, NASA JPL| Official Twitter

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