NASA asteroid update: Large asteroid to pass through Earth on March 21

NASA asteroid update: Large asteroid to pass through Earth on March 21

NASA says it will allow astronomers to observe the location of an asteroid at a rare distance.

NASA said Thursday that the largest asteroid passing through Earth this year will reach about 1.25 million miles (2 million kilometers) from our planet on September 21.

The US space agency says it will allow astronomers to observe an asteroid at an unusual distance.

NASA said, Asteroid, 2001 FO32, about 3,000 feet in diameter and discovered 20 years ago.

"We know the orbital path of 2001 FO32 around the Sun very accurately," said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies. "There is no chance the asteroid will get any closer to Earth than 1.25 million miles."

It is about 5.25 times the distance from the Moon to Earth, but is still close enough to be classified as a "potentially dangerous asteroid" for 2001 FO32.

NASA said the 2001 FO32 would travel at a speed of about 77,000 miles per hour, the speed at which most asteroids land on Earth.

Lance Benner, principal scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said: 

Currently, little is known about this object, so the very close encounter provides an outstanding opportunity to learn a great deal about this asteroid

NASA said astronomers hope to study the light by reflecting light from its surface, reflecting some light on the asteroid's size and shape.

"When sunlight hits an asteroid's surface, minerals in the rock absorb some wavelengths while reflecting others," NASA said. "By studying the spectrum of light reflecting off the surface, astronomers can measure the chemical 'fingerprints' of the minerals on the surface of the asteroid."

In some parts of the world, amateur astronomers should be able to make their own observations.

"The asteroid will be brightest while it moves through southern skies, Chodas said.

"Amateur astronomers in the southern hemisphere and at low northern latitudes should be able to see this asteroid using moderate size telescopes with apertures of at least eight inches in the nights leading up to closest approach, but they will probably need star charts to find it."

NASA said that about 95% of the asteroids near Earth could be 2001 FO32 or larger in size, and that none of them were likely to affect our planet in the next century.

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