On April 29, an asteroid calculated to be between 1.1 and 2.5 miles wide will fly towards Earth. But, thankfully, it is not expected to collide with Earth. According to NASA, if by any chance if it did, the asteroid is “large enough to cause global effects. This was the prediction of NASA at the time of discovery.
What is this asteroid called?
This asteroid is called 52768 (1998 OR2). It was first seen in 1998. It passes within 3,908,791 miles of Earth, with a speed of 19,461 miles per hour.
According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, the flyby will occur on Wednesday, i.e. April 29, at 4:56 a.m. ET. This Department of NASA track the Near-Earth Objects that could collide with Earth.
This one is not on NASA’s list of Potential Future Earth Impact events at present. But still, it is a potentially hazardous object as it passes near Earth’s orbit. The NASA’s Sentry System monitors these things. It is, “a highly automated collision monitoring system that continually scans the most current asteroid catalogue for possibilities of future impact with Earth over the next 100 years”.
Is it the biggest one to hit Earth?
Although it is not the most massive one ever to zip by Earth in the history, but it surely is the largest within the next two months.
The real honour belongs to that asteroid 3122 Florence (1981 ET3), which flew by and luckily missed colliding with Earth on September 1, 2017. This one will make another pass towards Earth on September 2, 2057. This one will be between two and a half and five and a half miles wide.
Along with tracking Near-Earth Objects that could pose a threat, NASA and other agencies also have missions on the way to study near-Earth asteroids. They consider about those asteroids that potentially mitigate the danger of a collision. The observatory for this is located on the Cerro Pachón ridge, which is in north-central Chile.
For the prediction of Near-Earth Objects, knowing the size and orbit of an asteroid is the main struggle. As the Executive Director of the Asteroid Institute and a former NASA astronaut, Ed Lu gave out a statement. He said, this year, it is expected that the Vera C. Rubin Observatory will come online and enable the discovery of tens of thousands of asteroids in the orbits that can bring them closer to Earth.
Lu also added that “It is an exciting time for planetary defence because we are on the verge of an absolute flood of new observations that will allow us to track ten times more asteroids than we have ever tracked before”.
NASA’s plan to collect the first sample from an asteroid reaches its target.
Some missions like, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx and Japan’s Hayabusa2 are exploring to find asteroids in our solar system. They aim to return samples to Earth in the upcoming years. The Near-Earth Object Camera, known as NEOCam, is out characterising near-Earth objects.
Some other missions are also on the way. NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test(DART), is a proper planetary defence test to prevent an asteroid from hitting Earth. The launch window of DART, is opening in July 2023. It will visit a binary asteroid system, a place where two asteroids orbit one another and aim to deflect the smaller asteroid.
DART will be crashing into a moonlet (a small natural satellite) of near-Earth asteroid Didymos, which is comparable in size to an asteroid that could pose as a threat.
Also, the European Space Agency’s complementary Hera mission will tightly measure how it changed the velocity of the more massive asteroid. It will also study DART’s impact crater on the moonlet.