Updated:04/20/2020 20: 09h
The headlines of half the world collected that the asteroid 52768 (1998 OR2)It will “touch” the Earth on April 29. It is a space rock of between 1.8 and 4.1 kilometers in diameter who will approach us to 0.04 astronomical units and at a speed of 8.69 kilometers per second. However, although it may sound threatening, the truth is that this body will pass in its closest orbit at 6.28 million kilometers or, what is the same, to 16.4 times the distance from Earth to the Moon. So, beyond the astronomical show, we have nothing to fear.
In fact, their approach has already had pleasant consequences: the radio telescope of the Arecibo Observatory, in Puerto Rico, has obtained an impressive image of the asteroid this week. In it you can see a rounded shape that the researchers themselves compare with a health “mask”.
#TeamRadar and the @NAICobservatory staff are taking the proper safety measures as we continue observations. This week we have been observing near-Earth asteroid 1998 OR2, which looks like it’s wearing a mask! It’s at least 1.5 km across and is passing 16 lunar distances away! pic.twitter.com/X2mQJCT2Qg
– Arecibo Radar (@AreciboRadar) April 18, 2020
Since its discovery in 1998, space agencies around the world have been following it closely and have accurately acquired its orbital data, making it known that despite being listed as ‘potentially dangerous’ (all bodies passing into less than 0.05 astronomical units of the Earth are), will not suppose no risk.
Zhao Haibin, an astronomer at the Purple Mountain Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, explains: “The asteroid has zero chance of hitting Earth when I do the next flyby, ”said Zhao, quoted by the Chinese news agency Xinhua.
Scientists at the Zhao Observatory, based in Jiangsu province, eastern China, have been closely monitoring the asteroid. From the April 4 They tracked it using the near-Earth object telescope and reported their observation data to the Minor Planet Center, affiliated with the International Astronomical Union.
Despite its large size, the CNEOS (NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies) has also ensured that there is no risk of impact. In fact, over the next few centuries, a list of 23 objects, and only one (‘2018 VP1‘) could impact this 2020 against Earth, although the probabilities are very low and its size is much smaller, about 2 meters.
They are actually many bodies approaching Earth’s orbit. However, usually not that big like ‘52768 (1998 OR2)’: on average, only six asteroids of this size approach Earth. However, the work to locate and control asteroids is vital in the security of our planet, since a body of this size could be devastating to life on Earth, as demonstrated by the event that killed the dinosaurs. For this reason, there are already some plans from different space agencies (including the European Space Agency or ESA) to face a possible asteroid impact against our planet. There are even programs like HERA or Dart to test the effectiveness of these theoretical plans.