New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: A massive asteroid will safely pass by our planet on Wednesday afternoon, providing astronomers with an exceptional opportunity to study the 1.5 mile-wide object in great detail. The asteroid, called 1998 OR2, will make its closest approach at 5:55 am EDT (3.25 pm Indian Standard Time or IST).

Though it is known as a close approach by astronomers, it's still very far away from earth. The asteroid will pass 6.3 million km away from earth or 16 times farther away from the Moon. 

The Asteroid 1998 OR2 was discovered by an Asteroid Tracking program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in July 1998, and for the past two decades, astronomers have tracked it.

This is the reason, the astronomers understand its orbital trajectory very precisely and are confident that the asteroid poses no possible impact for at least the next 200 years.

The 1998 OR2's next close approach to Earth will occur in 2079 when it will pass by closer -- only about four times the lunar distance.

Despite this, it is still categorized as a large "potentially hazardous asteroid" because, over the course of millennia, very slight changes in the asteroid's orbit may cause it to present more of a hazard to Earth than it does now.

This is one of the reasons why tracking this asteroid during its close approach -- using telescopes and radar -- is important, as observations such as these will enable an even better long-term assessment of the hazard presented by this asteroid.

Close approaches by large asteroids like 1998 OR2 are quite rare. The previous close approach by a large asteroid was made by asteroid Florence in September 2017. That 3-mile-wide object zoomed past Earth at 18 lunar distances.

On average, we expect asteroids of this size to fly by our planet this close roughly every five years.

 

(with ANI inputs)

Posted By: James Kuanal