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April 29, 2020 - An asteroid big enough to destroy Earth, an apocalyptic reminder of the vulnerability of our planet, is due to pass us by on April 29.
Earth-Sky describes the space rock, 1998 OR2, as at least 1.6km (1 mile) wide or possibly 2.5 times that size. According to the publication, it is the largest known of all large Near Earth Objects (NEOs) that will pass us within less than five times the Earth-Moon distance over the next two centuries. It is travelling through space at 31,319km per hour (19,461mph).
Asteroid 1998 OR2 is one of the class of NEOs called Potentially Hazardous Objects (PHOs). Its classmates are NEOs whose orbits bring them within 7.5 million km (4.7 million miles) of Earth’s orbit, and that are greater than 140 metres (500 feet) in size.
Space agencies are finding, tracking and characterising NEOs as part of globally-coordinated planetary defence programmes. NASA’s NEO Observations Program, which is linked in to the global operation, notes that the bigger NEOs “pose a risk to Earth of greatest concern due to the level of devastation an impact would cause… While no known asteroid larger than 140 metres in size has a significant chance to hit Earth for the next 100 years, less than half of the estimated 25,000 NEOs that are 140 metres (460 feet) and larger in size have been found to date.”
A science paper published by NASA states that, “… there is no consensus on how to reliably deflect or disrupt hazardous NEOs in a timely manner.” According to the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, our homeworld has suffered upwards of 3 million impacts that left craters larger than 1km (0.62 miles) in diameter – the largest stretching more than 1,000 km (620 miles) in diameter.
- Huge asteroid 1998 OR2 will zip harmlessly by Earth April 29. See the latest telescope photos (Space.com)
- Seek out 1998 OR2, the brightest predicted near-Earth asteroid encounter of 2020 (Astronomy Now)
- Here’s how to see that huge asteroid that’ll safely pass Earth in April (EarthSky)
- Massive space rock misses Earth and leaves reminder of Earth vulnerability (NewsAhead)