Published: 13th March 2021
What the FAQ: Everything you need to know about the fastest asteroid to pass Earth on March 21
Here's all you need to know about the fastest and biggest asteroid to pass Earth in 2021, whether you can see it with bare eyes and more
The biggest known asteroid and one of the fastest space rocks known to fly by Earth will sweep by on March 21, 2021, NASA confirmed recently. This will also provide astronomers with a chance to take a good look at the asteroid.
Here's everything you need to know about the asteroid, its size, speed when it will pass and more.
When will the asteroid pass Earth?
Ans: The largest asteroid to pass by Earth this year will approach within about 1.25 million miles (2 million kilometres) of our planet on March 21, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said on Thursday. The US space agency said it would allow astronomers to get a rare close look at an asteroid.
How big and fast is the asteroid?
Ans: The asteroid, 2001 FO32, is estimated to be about 3,000 feet (915 meters) in diameter and was discovered 20 years ago, NASA said. Although there’s no risk of impact, the space rock is of interest also because it’s one of the fastest space rocks known to fly by Earth. It’s travelling at about 76,980 miles per hour (123,887 km/h) or 21 miles (34.4 km) per second, relative to Earth. In contrast, Earth travels around the sun at about 18 miles (30 km) per second. Since 2001 FO32 is good-sized and occasionally passes near Earth, it’s been classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid. Its orbit is well known, and it poses no risk of impact.
Can you see the asteroid pass Earth?
Ans: NASA noted that the space rock will be too faint to see with the unaided eye. It’ll be visible to observers using an 8″ or larger diameter telescopes. You must aim your telescope at the correct position in the sky, at the right time. Asteroid 2001 FO32 will be sweeping past Earth at such a fast pace that, when it’s closest, observers using 8″ or larger telescopes might be able to detect its motion – its drift in front of the stars – in real-time.
When will the next asteroid be observed?
Ans: After it passes by Earth in March 2021, the next encounter of this asteroid with our planet occurs in 31 years, on March 22, 2052. However, the 2021 approach will be its closest to Earth for the next 200 years for which its orbit has been calculated.
How will it help astronomers to get a better look?
Ans: NASA said astronomers hope to get a better understanding of the asteroid's size and a rough idea of its composition by studying light reflecting off its surface. "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."