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Largest Asteroid To Fly Past Earth In 2021 'Potentially Hazardous'

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Largest Asteroid To Fly Past Earth In 2021 'Potentially Hazardous'

Mark your calendars, guys, because 2021's largest known asteroid will be passing Earth on 21 March and it's said to be 'potentially hazardous'.

The space rock - which is known as 2001 FO32 - is one of numerous near-Earth objects (NEOs) that orbit the sun, just as our planet does.

Credit: WikiCommons
Credit: WikiCommons

Usually NEOs are within 30 million miles - just to put this in to context, the distance around Earth at the Equator is just short of 25,000 miles so NEOs are a long way away.

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According to NASA there are around 25,000 identified NEOs and more than 2,100 are classed as being 'potentially hazardous' - just like the 21 March asteroid.

As per Newsweek, potentially hazardous NEOs are those with orbits that approach the Earth's own path around the sun to within 4.6 million miles, while also measuring greater than around 460 feet in diameter.

It seems that 2001 FO32 meets both of the criteria to make it 'potentially hazardous' but apparently this is only the case so that they can be tracked 'for decades' to 'study how their orbits might be evolving', according to CNEOS director Paul Chodas.

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NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, estimates that it measures between 2,526 feet (0.47 miles) and 5,577 feet (1.05 miles) in diameter.

If you still need your mind putting at rest, NASA said that potentially hazardous asteroids are 'defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid's potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth'.

How an asteroid might usually look. Credit: NASA
How an asteroid might usually look. Credit: NASA

NASA continued: "Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) of 0.05 au or less are considered PHAs.

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"Occasionally, asteroids' orbital paths are influenced by the gravitational tug of planets, which cause their paths to alter.

"Scientists believe stray asteroids or fragments from earlier collisions have slammed into Earth in the past, playing a major role in the evolution of our planet."

According to reports, the asteroid will be within around 1.2 million miles away from earth at 11.03am ET (which is 4.03pm GMT).

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Topics: News, space, Asteroid

Rebecca Shepherd
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