A large and "potentially hazardous" asteroid (opens in new tab) is poised to fly by Earth next month, but don't worry — it poses no threat to Earth.
Asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 will make a close approach to Earth on April 29. The hefty space rock has an estimated diameter of 1.1 to 2.5 miles (1.8 to 4.1 kilometers), or about the width of the isle of Manhattan.
While an asteroid that size could wreak havoc if it crashed into Earth — prompting some alarmist and misinformed media reports (opens in new tab) — this asteroid poses no threat.
Video: Big asteroid 1998 OR2 will safely fly by (imagery + orbit animation) (opens in new tab)
Related: Potentially dangerous asteroids (images) (opens in new tab)
At its closest approach, which will happen at about 5:56 a.m. EDT (0956 GMT), asteroid 1998 OR2 will be 3.9 million miles (6.3 million km) from Earth. That's more than 16 times the average distance between Earth and the moon (opens in new tab).
NASA has classified asteroid 1998 OR2 as "potentially hazardous" not because it puts Earth in danger, but because it fulfills certain criteria in the agency's classification scheme. According to NASA, (opens in new tab) an asteroid qualifies as "potentially hazardous" if its orbit ever intersects Earth's orbit at a distance less than 4.6 million miles (7.5 million km), or 0.05 astronomical units, the average distance between Earth and the sun.
Asteroid 1998 OR2, which orbits the sun in between the orbits of Earth and Mars, won't fly by Earth again until May 18, 2031, and it will be farther away, passing about 12 million miles (19 million km) from our planet, according to NASA (opens in new tab).
Its next two flybys, in 2048 and 2062, will be even farther away. The closest flyby of asteroid 1998 OR2 for the foreseeable future will be on April 16, 2079, when it will be only 1.1 million miles (1.8 million km) away.
NASA and its international partners are actively scanning the skies (opens in new tab) for potentially hazardous asteroids and studying ways to deflect an Earth-bound asteroid (opens in new tab) before it strikes. So far, about one-third of the 25,000 (opens in new tab) large asteroids thought to be zooming around in Earth's cosmic neighborhood have been discovered.
- The Hunt for Dangerous Asteroids: Here's How Scientists Do It
- NASA wants a new space telescope to hunt asteroids that may threaten Earth
- Planetary defense joins NASA's menu for next decadal survey focus
OFFER: Save at least 56% with our latest magazine deal! (opens in new tab)
All About Space magazine (opens in new tab) takes you on an awe-inspiring journey through our solar system and beyond, from the amazing technology and spacecraft that enables humanity to venture into orbit, to the complexities of space science.