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An asteroid similar in size to the Golden Gate Bridge will pass Earth later this month – the largest and fastest asteroid to pass near our planet this year.

But don’t worry, it won’t be too close.

The asteroid, officially known to NASA as 231937 (2001 FO32), is about 0.5 to 1 mile in diameter, making it larger than about 97% of asteroids but small compared to large asteroids. , according to Space Reference. It has an orbit period of 810 days.

The asteroid is expected to approach within 1.25 million miles of Earth at 11:02 a.m.ET on March 21, just a day after the spring equinox. It’s close enough that NASA classifies it as “potentially dangerous“in its near-Earth asteroid database.

“This is the closest planned approach to 2021 for any medium-sized asteroid, where ‘moderately large’ means at least several hundred feet in size,” Center director Paul Chodas told CBS News Wednesday. for Near-Earth Object Studies. .

However, it does not present any risk of impact and scientists know its trajectory very precisely.

An artistic rendering creates an approximate 2001 FO32 landscape with Mount Everest in the background. The shape, color and texture of the asteroid are imagined. / Credit: Space Reference

According to EarthSky, it will go at nearly 77,000 miles per hour, or 21 miles per second, which represents a peak for scientists as one of the fastest space rocks known to fly over Earth. Asteroids are referred to as “potentially dangerous” when they are located approximately 4.65 million kilometers from Earth and are over 500 feet in diameter.

At its brightest, space rock will always be “far too faint” to be seen with the naked eye, Chodas said.

“One fascinating aspect of asteroids is that observers using backyard telescopes can spot them as seemingly slow” stars, “EarthSky said. “It typically takes at least 5 to 10 minutes for backyard telescope users to detect the motion of a space rock in front of its star field. But asteroid 2001 FO32 will sweep the Earth at such a rapid rate that, when ‘it will be the closest, observers using 8- inch or larger telescopes could detect its movement – its drift past the stars – in real time. “

Observers in low northern latitudes and in the southern hemisphere will have the best chance of spotting it in its best light, Chodas said. Star maps will help locate it.

Telescopes in New Mexico that are part of the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research program detected the asteroid on March 23, 2001. The MIT Lincoln Laboratory program, funded by the US Air Force and NASA, has been monitoring it ever since.

The biggest threat currently known is an asteroid called (410777) 2009 FD, which has less than a 0.2% chance of hitting Earth in 2185, according to NASA’s OFSP.

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