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article imageAsteroid flying by Earth seems to be observing COVID-18 protocol

By Karen Graham     Apr 27, 2020 in Science
Even space rocks are observing COVID-19 protocol. The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico is tracking an asteroid called 1998 OR2 and captured a radar view of the traveler that makes it look like it's sporting a face mask.
Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico captured a radar image of the asteroid 1998 OR2 on Saturday, April 18, that is fantastic. The space rock will zoom within 3.9 million miles (6.3 million kilometers) of our planet on April 29.
We have nothing to worry about, even though 1998OR2 is classified as a Potentially Hazardous Object (PHO). PHOs are bigger than 140 meters (about 500 feet) and come within 5 million miles of Earth’s orbit. Asteroid 1998 OR2 is between 1.1 and 2.5 miles (1.8 to 4.1 kilometers) wide and rotates once every 4.1 hours.
Even though the Earth is not in any danger from the asteroid, the Arecibo Observatory uses these observations to plot future trajectories for the asteroid.
“The radar measurements allow us to know more precisely where the asteroid will be in the future, including its future close approaches to Earth,” says Flaviane Venditti, a research scientist at the observatory. “In 2079, asteroid 1998 OR2 will pass Earth about 3.5 times closer than it will this year, so it is important to know its orbit precisely.”
COVID-19 precautions in place
Arecibo team members have been wearing face masks in the workplace to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, so it's not too far a stretch to see masks everywhere, including on a space rock.
"#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!" team members tweeted on Saturday via the @AreciboRadar account.
"The small-scale topographic features such as hills and ridges on one end of asteroid 1998 OR2 are fascinating scientifically," research scientist Anne Virkki said, reports CNET. "But since we are all thinking about COVID-19 these features make it look like 1998 OR2 remembered to wear a mask."
More about Asteroid, Arecibo Observatory, Potentially Hazardous Objects, topographical features, wearing a mask
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