Asteroid safely flies by Earth on Sunday

Asteroid safely flies by Earth on Sunday

On Sunday, the largest asteroid this year flew by Earth at 77,000 mph.

The celestial object, which had received the designation of a “potentially hazardous asteroid” by NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, didn’t get too close, though.

“We know the orbital path of 2001 FO32 around the Sun very accurately, since it was discovered 20 years ago and has been tracked ever since,” said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), which is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “There is no chance the asteroid will get any closer to Earth than 1.25 million miles.”

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The asteroid, which completes one orbit every 810 days, reached its closest point on Sunday, but still the rock was more than five times the distance between Earth and the Moon.

The close call will allow scientific study of the asteroid.

Said Lance Benner, principal scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory: “Currently little is known about this object, so the very close encounter provides an outstanding opportunity to learn a great deal about this asteroid.”

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Lucky stargazers may just witness the visit.

“The asteroid will be brightest while it moves through southern skies,” said Chodas. “Amateur astronomers in the southern hemisphere and at low northern latitudes should be able to see this asteroid using moderate size telescopes with apertures of at least 8 inches in the nights leading up to closest approach, but they will probably need star charts to find it.”