No threat to Earth as huge asteroid zooms past
The largest asteroid to pass by Earth this year has made its closest approach, posing no threat of a cataclysmic collision but giving astronomers a rare chance to study a rock formed during the beginning of our solar system.
The asteroid was two million kilometres (1.25 million miles) away at its nearest, according to NASA – more than five times the distance between the Earth and the Moon but still close enough to be classified as a “potentially hazardous asteroid”.
NASA tracks and catalogues such objects that could potentially slam into Earth and unleash enormous destruction, like the massive asteroid that wiped out 75 percent of life on the planet 66 million years ago.
Asteroid 2001 FO32, discovered 20 years ago, was too far to be that dangerous even as it reached its nearest point to Earth at around 14:00 GMT on Sunday, according to the Paris Observatory. NASA said it was travelling at about 124,000 km/h (77,000 mph).
“Oh yes, friends! Do you see this dot of light? This dot of light is the asteroid,” exclaimed astrophysicist Gianluca Masi of the Italy-based Virtual Telescope Project, which had trained its lenses on the rock on Monday soon after its nearest approach.
“How happy I am, how proud I am, how I excited I am… to bring this to you live,” said Masi as he displayed a grainy image of a pale dot during a YouTube broadcast.
Get those telescopes ready! On March 21 Asteroid 2001 FO32 will pass safely by Earth, giving astronomers a good look at a relic from the dawn of our solar system.🔭
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— NASA STI Program (@NASA_STI) March 18, 2021
Astronomers were hoping to get a better understanding of the composition of the estimated 900-metre (3,000-foot) rock as it zoomed by.
“When sunlight hits an asteroid’s surface, minerals in the rock absorb some wavelengths while reflecting others,” NASA said.
“By studying the spectrum of light reflecting off the surface, astronomers can measure the chemical ‘fingerprints’ of the minerals on the surface of the asteroid.”…..read more
Source: Al Jazeera