A very big asteroid is going to come close to Earth on March 23, 2021, but there’s very little chance of it hitting Earth.
Known as a NEO, or near-Earth object, The asteroid 2001 FO32 is going to come within about 5 times the distance of the moon to Earth. So, around a couple of million miles. This means it’s not going to hit Earth. As a matter of fact, it’s not come any closer in its next 5 passes. And that means we have lots of time to worry about it since it comes around every 30 years or so.
Now this rock is big. Asteroid 2001 FO32 is about a mile in diameter – bigger than 97% of asteroids we know – and flying along at 77,000 mph. In comparison, the ISS is like a turtle next to it at 17,000 mph. So if it were to hit Earth we are talking about an extinction-level event. But, it’s not going to hit, so no worries.
The closest asteroid
This rock isn’t close, but we have had a close encounter recently. You might recall that in August of 2020 an asteroid flew past Earth, getting within 1,800 miles. That was the closest we came to getting hit by a pretty substantial rock. Even though it was about 20 feet in diameter, it could have caused some pretty big damage on the ground. The Chelyabinsk meteor broke up in the atmosphere, but still damaged over 7,000 buildings on the ground, and injured scores of people. And that’s because it was a meteor.
Meteors are made up of small rocks or particles, which blow up in the atmosphere. An asteroid on the other hand is made of rock, and could quite possibly make it to the ground. All depending on size and angle of fall.
If you’re interested in seeing the big asteroid as it flies by Earth you’ll need a pretty good telescope. Check Stellarium online if you want to find out where it’s going to be. You might actually be able to see it low in the southern sky if you’re in the north.
So again, no worries about this hitting us this time around. If you’re interested you can head over to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). They have a list of all known NEOs.