How To Spot The Massive Asteroid That Will Be Passing Earth This March, 2021
Stargazers and space enthusiasts officially have another significant date to add to the calendar: next month, a massive asteroid will pass the Earth at an unimaginably fast rate—approximately 97 percent faster than any other asteroid in known existence.
According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the asteroid known as 2001 FO32 is considered to be “potentially hazardous” due to its sheer size and the speed at which it will be whizzing past the Earth.
That being said, according to a Travel + Leisure report, there’s no need to worry about the asteroid causing damage to the planet this time around—it’ll be about 1.3 million miles from the Earth, or about five times further than the moon. In fact, the closest asteroid that has ever passed Earth did so much closer at 1,830 miles from the planet, in August of last year.
Described by NASA as a “Near Earth Object,” the asteroid in question is approximately 0.47 to 1.06 miles in diameter; a significant size for a NEO that is comparable to the size of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California.
“NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood,” NASA explained on its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) website. “The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is due largely to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process some 4.6 billion years ago.”
Interested in catching a glimpse of the NEO as it passes the Earth in real time? Well, you’re in luck—as long as you have access to a telescope. Despite its significant size, Asteroid 2001 FO32 will not be visible to the naked eye… but it can still be spotted by the amateur stargazer at the right moment.
The massive asteroid is set to pass Earth on March 24 at 12:03 a.m. HKT at a speed of 76,980 miles per hour. And unlike most asteroids and comets, which are relatively easy to spot due to their slower speed that make them appear to be stationary like a star or a planet, Asteroid 2001 FO32 will look something like a commercial airplane in terms of speed.