NASA announced that the largest asteroid will pass closest to Earth on March 21. At the closest point 2001, FO32 will be two million kilometers from our planet.
The asteroid is predicted to have a diameter of about 914 meters and a width of 440 to 680 meters. Its name - 2001 FO32 - is a tribute to the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program during which astronomers discovered the asteroid.
The celestial body will pass by the Earth at the end of March. Its speed will be almost 124 thousand kilometers per hour. This is higher than the speed at which most asteroids fly by. The reason for this rapid convergence is the unusual orbit of this astronomical object. It is tilted 39 degrees to the plane of the Earth's orbit.
2001 FO32 will approach the planet at a distance of about two million kilometers. This is five times the distance to the Moon. On an astronomical scale, this is not much, so 2001 FO32 was classified as a "potentially dangerous asteroid." However, there is no threat of its collision with the Earth. “We discovered the asteroid 20 years ago and have studied well the trajectory of its orbit around the Sun,” added Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.
Meeting on March 21 will provide astronomers with a better idea of the asteroid's size and albedo. And also find out its approximate composition. In particular, by studying the spectrum of light reflected from the surface of an asteroid, astronomers are going to measure the "fingerprint" of mineral chemistry.
The research is going to be carried out using a 3, 2-meter infrared telescope, located at the top of the Hawaiian island of Manau Kea, and an infrared spectrograph SpeX. "Little is known about the object now, but thanks to its approach, we can learn something new," - said Lance Banner, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The agency also invites amateur astronomers to conduct their own research. So, Paul Chodas said that the asteroid will be the brightest object when moving across the southern sky. He hopes that amateurs will be able to witness this phenomenon. “Amateur astronomers in the Southern Hemisphere will be able to see the asteroid on the evening before the closest approach. But for this they will need a medium-sized telescope with an aperture of at least eight inches, as well as a map,”concluded Chodas.