A large asteroid just passed close to Earth

A large asteroid just passed close to Earth


The asteroid 2001 FO32 has just grazed our planet, passing about two million kilometers from it. This event occurred this Sunday, March 21 at 5:02 p.m. KST. Obviously, there was no risk of collision. While its trajectory was regular and well known, the asteroid had one peculiarity: a speed greater than most other bodies of its type.

An asteroid classified as “potentially dangerous”
It measures less than 1000 meters in diameter and has just passed just two million kilometers from our planet. Here is 2001 FO32, an asteroid that was the subject of a NASA publication on March 12, 2021. Specifically, this large rocky body passed at a distance of 2,016,158 km – roughly five times the Earth-Moon distance. – at a speed of 124,000 km / h. However, this speed is greater than that of most known asteroids. It passed at 4:02 p.m. GMT (5:02 p.m. Paris time), of course without any risk of collision with Earth. NASA had also recalled that its trajectory was regular and known (see below), having made it possible to rule out any danger several weeks in advance.

In contrast, 2001 FO32 is classified as “potentially dangerous”. This is also the case for all asteroids with a diameter of more than 140 meters and whose orbit is less than 19.5 times the Earth-Moon distance. The point is, this class of asteroids is a priority for many astronomers. Indeed, it is a question of making an inventory as exhaustive as possible in order to predict their trajectories and assess their potential risks.

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Next passage in 2052
First observed some 20 years ago – hence its name – 2001 FO32 has always been the subject of heightened surveillance. The latter is one of the “Apollo” near-Earth asteroids, which circle the Sun in less than a year and may cross our planet’s orbit. NASA said it knew relatively little about 2001 FO32, adding that its visit was going to be an opportunity to learn a lot.

Amateur astronomers have also eagerly awaited the passage of this asteroid in order to observe it. However, only those present in the Southern Hemisphere (and at lower northern latitudes) had this pleasant opportunity. Moreover, the astronomers in question could only see the body in question with a telescope having at least a diameter of 20 centimeters. With a white dot moving like a satellite, this is what those with the necessary equipment could see.

After its brief visit, 2001 FO32 will continue its journey and should come closer to the Earth again in 2052. The latter should this time pass about seven times the Earth-Moon distance, or nearly 2.8 million kilometers.

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