WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- An asteroid the size of the Golden Gate Bridge will fly by our earth close enough to be labeled “potentially hazardous.”
- However, there’s no reason to worry, as the space rock will be flying by the Earth at around 1.25 million miles away on March 21.
- NASA is studying methods of deflecting asteroids that do end up on a collision course with the Earth.
Next month, an asteroid the width of the Golden Gate Bridge is set to hurtle past Earth.
Don’t worry. This isn’t Armageddon and there’s no reason to panic.
Officially called 231937 (2001 FO32), the space rock has a diameter of around 0.5 to 1 mile, and will be within 1.25 million miles as it hurtles past the Earth on March 21 at around 11:03 am. EST. This means the asteroid is big enough to be labeled “potentially hazardous” according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory database. Asteroids are classified as “potentially hazardous” when their trajectory intersects the Earth’s orbit within 4.65 million miles and is over 500 feet in diameter.
This asteroid is going to be the speediest and biggest space rock to fly by our planet this year, zooming by at almost 77,000 mph.
The asteroid was detected on March 23, 2001, by telescopes in New Mexico that are under the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid (LINEAR) program (funded by NASA and the US Air Force) and has been monitored ever since by observatories. Scientists used these observations to determine the space rock’s orbit and how close it would whiz by the earth.
According to NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), small asteroids pass between the earth and the moon several times each month. Daily, fragments from these rocks enter and disintegrate in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Methods of deflecting asteroids that end up on a collision course with our planet are being studied by NASA. According to the PDCO, one possible method could be using the gravity of a flying spacecraft to nudge and pull asteroids off course and to a safe enough distance away.