Massive space rock misses Earth and leaves reminder of Earth vulnerability

April 29, 2020

An asteroid described as big enough to destroy Earth, an apocalyptic reminder about the vulnerability of the planet, is due to pass by on the April date.

Earth-Sky describes the space rock, 1998 OR2, as at least 1 mile wide (1.6 km) and maybe 2 1/2 times that big. According to the publication, it is the largest known of all large Near Earth Objects (NEOs) that will pass less than five times the Earth-Moon distance over the next two centuries. It is traveling through space at 19,461 miles per hour (31,319 km/h).

Asteroid 1998 OR2 is one of the class of NEOs called Potentially Hazardous Objects (PHOs). Its classmates are NEOs whose orbit brings them within 4.7 million miles (7.5 million km) of Earth’s orbit, and that are greater than 500 feet (140 meters) in size.

Space agencies are finding, tracking and characterizing NEOs as part of the globally-coordinated planetary defense programs. The website of 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 meters 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 meters 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 .62 miles (1 km) in diameter – the largest stretching more than 621.3 miles (1,000 km) in diameter.

#23449 Published: March 12, 2020