An infamous space rock called 231937 (2001 FO32) will swing near to our planet on March 21. The monster space rock is a true giant, measuring at least 1,024 metres across, NASA revealed.
The space rock is shooting through the solar system at a staggering 34.4 kilometres per second, or more than 123,000 kilometres an hour.
According to NASA, the asteroid will pass Earth at a safe 5.3 lunar distances (LDs).
One LD is 384,317 kilometres – the distance between the Earth and the Moon – so 2001 FO32 will fly by at more than two million kilometres from our planet.
The term ‘potentially hazardous’ does not mean that an asteroid poses an imminent threat to Earth.
Rather, it refers to the sentiment that somewhere down the line in the solar system’s future, an asteroid could collide with Earth.
There are several unknown factors which could influence the future path of the asteroid, including the gravitational pull of other celestial bodies in the solar system.
NASA said: “Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.
“Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) of 0.05 au or less are considered PHAs.”
“Occasionally, asteroids’ orbital paths are influenced by the gravitational tug of planets, which cause their paths to alter.
“Scientists believe stray asteroids or fragments from earlier collisions have slammed into Earth in the past, playing a major role in the evolution of our planet.”
A force known as the Yarkovsky effect can also cause an asteroid to veer off-course. The effect occurs when a space rock is heated in direct sunlight and cools down to release radiation from its surface.
The passing 2001 FO32 should serve as a warning, with NASA stating a one kilometre-wide asteroid has the potential to cause chaos across the planet.
NASA said: “An individual’s chance of being killed by a meteorite is small, but the risk increases with the size of the impacting comet or asteroid, with the greatest risk associated with global catastrophes resulting from impacts of objects larger than 1 kilometre.”
However, the space agency moved to reassure any worried minds, stating it is not predicting a major asteroid strike of that size for several centuries.
The space boffins said: “NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small.
“In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years.”
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