Tin hats at the ready! 😉
Have you heard the buzz about a big – very big – asteroid that will pass relatively close to Earth this month?
Asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 ( that we will, just for the hell of it, name Steve) will pass at a safe distance, at some 4 million miles (6 million km), or about 16 times the Earth-moon distance.
It’s big though– the biggest asteroid due to fly by Earth this year – and will come closest to Earth on April 29, 2020.
Astronomers at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico plan to study it from now, as it travels through space at 19,461 miles per hour (31,320 km/h).
The high-resolution radar images that will be obtained from Arecibo should provide scientists a better estimate of the Steve’s size and shape. According to current estimates, he is probably at least a mile wide (1.8 km) and maybe 2 1/2 times that long (4.1 km).
Closest approach will be April 29th around 5:56 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (09:56 UTC; translate UTC to your time). (around 12 noon here) Professional observatories have been pointing their telescopes at Steve already. Amateur astronomers with smaller telescopes will also have an opportunity to see him as a slow-moving “star.” If that’s you, we give charts and tips for observers at the bottom of this post that should help.
No access to a telescope? No problem. The Virtual Telescope Project in Rome will host a free, online public viewing of the asteroid on April 28, 2020.
BUT…Let’s make it absolutely clear that there’s no chance of a collision between Big Steve and Earth... well not this month anyway 😊