Before we dive into the discussion of a huge asteroid which is due to fly by earth on Wednesday, we should explore some basic information about Asteroids. After hearing this news, some people who are not well informed about space will ask following questions. So for those newbies lets go through these first!
what is an Asteroid?
According to NASA, Asteroid is a small and rocky objects that orbit the Sun. Even though asteroids orbit the Sun like planets, they are much smaller than planets.
What are asteroids made of?
They are mostly composed of silicon and oxygen which are two most abundant materials found in our planet Earth. There are also metallic asteroids which are composed of 80% iron and 20% mixture of other metals like nickel. iridium platinum, palladium, gold, magnesium and other precious metals like osmium, ruthenium and rhodium.
Where did asteroids come from?
The remains of the formation of our Solar system is known as Asteroids. Our Solar System started about 4.6 billion years ago when dust and a huge cloud of gas collapsed. Most of the material fell into the centre of cloud and formed the Sun, some of the condensing dust turned into planets. But various huge objects which never got the chance to be incorporated into planets are now known as Asteroids. In other words they are left overs from the time when our Solar system was formed.
Where can Asteroids be found?
In our Solar System, there are lots of asteroids which live in the region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter also known as an Asteroid Belt. Apart from these asteroids, there are other asteroids which are found in the orbital path of planets. In other words, such asteroids follow the same path as their planet. Our planet Earth also have few asteroids like this.
How many Asteroids are there in our Solar System?
As you can imagine, there are millions of interstellar asteroids in our Solar system. In an asteroid belt, scientists have estimated that there are between 1.1 and 1.9 million asteroids which are larger than 1 kilometre (0.6 mile) in diameter. Apart from these huge asteroids, scientists also estimates that the belt also has millions asteroids which are smaller in other words less than 100km across. These small ones are more difficult to detect. Overall, some scientist estimates that there could be 150 million asteroids in the whole Solar System.
Now, that we have discussed the basics of Asteroids in our Solar system, let’s talk about the one which is due to pass on April 29.
A huge – very huge asteroid is due to fly by the Earth on April 29, 2020. This asteroid also known as (52768) 1998 OR2 will fly by at a safe distance of some 4 million miles (6 million km), which is about 16 times the Earth-moon distance. It will be moving at 19,461 miles per hour.
Scientist suggest that this will be the biggest asteroid to fly by Earth with in the next two month. According to current estimate, the asteroid is mostly spherical and almost 2.5 miles wide. It will be closest to Earth on April 29 at around 5:56 a.m Eastern Daylight Time (09:56 UTC; translate UTC to your time). This Asteroid was first spotted in 1998 by scientists in Haleakala Gamma Ray Observatory.
Even though this huge asteroid was classified as a potentially hazardous object flying near Earth’s orbit, it is not on the NASA’s list of potential future Earth impact events. Such events data is gathered by NASA’s Sentry System, According to NASA, this system is “a highly automated collision monitoring system that continually scans the most current asteroid catalog for possibilities of future impact with Earth over the next 100 years.”
Professional observatories like an Arecibo observatory in Puerto rico have been pointing their telescopes at this huge asteroid already. Simultaneously, new astronomers are also eager to watch this slow moving STAR with their much smaller telescopes. Like us if you don’t have access to a telescope, then don’t worry, we have a link for you to view it live. In Rome Virtual Telescope Project , will host a free online public viewing of the Astroid on April 28, 2020.
Will the huge asteroid hit us?
Let me be absolutely clear here that there is 0% chance of a collision between this asteroid and Earth. Moreover, as discussed above this asteroid is classified as a potentially hazardous Asteroid by the Center for Near Earth Objects. This centre defines hazardous asteroid as an object which comes as close to Earth as “0.05 AU or less (almost 19.5 lunar distances) & an absolute magnitude of 22.0 or less”. In other words, these objects are huge and reasonably close to Earth.
One should ask how many such objects are in our Solar system. According to Wikipedia, there are 22 such huge asteroids which scientists have discovered. Don’t worry, None of these objects is on a collision course with Earth in the foreseeable future. Similarly, the huge asteroid which is due to pass Earth on Wednesday is not on a collision course with Earth anytime soon. Researchers already know the orbit of this asteroid for the next 200 years. Its closest approach to Earth will happen in 2079. In 2079, this asteroid will again fly by within about a million miles of Earth at a distance which will be equal to four times of Earth – moon distance. Another significant fact about (52768) 1998 OR2 is that it is the largest known Near Earth Objects which will pass less than five times by Earth at the Earth-moon distance over the next two centuries.
None of the 22 Potentially Hazardous Asteroids listed by Wikipedia is known to be on a collision course with Earth in the foreseeble future. In fact, none of the asteroids in the linked video is known to be on a collision course. Likewise, asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 isn’t on a collision course with Earth, not anytime soon. The orbit of this asteroid is well known for at least the next 200 years. Its closest approach to Earth in this century and the next will happen in 2079, when it’ll swoop to within about a million miles of Earth (still about four times farther away than the moon). That 2079 sweep past Earth will still be a big deal. Asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 is the largest known of all large Near-Earth Objects that’ll pass less than five times the Earth-moon distance over the next two centuries!
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