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article imageAsteroid the size of Golden Gate Bridge to zoom past Earth

By Karen Graham     Mar 8, 2021 in Science
An asteroid as wide as the Golden Gate Bridge is long will hurtle past Earth next month. But although it will be the biggest and speediest asteroid to fly by our planet this year, there's no reason to panic.
The asteroid - officially called 231937 (2001 FO32), is about 0.5 to 1 mile (0.8 to 1.7 kilometers) in diameter and will come within 1.25 million miles (2 million kilometers) of Earth at 11:03 a.m. EST (1603 GMT) on March 21.
CTV News Canada is reporting that the asteroid will be traveling at a speed of 123,887 kilometers per hour (77,000 miles per hour) or 34.4 kilometers per second (21 miles per second). And for our neighbors in Canada, the asteroid is about twice the size of the CN Building.
Asteroid 2001 FO32 is a Near-Earth Object (NEO) and is about 97 percent larger than most asteroids, but small compared to large asteroids. It orbits the sun every 810 days (2.22 years). 2001 FO32's orbit is determined by observations dating back to March 23, 2001. It was last officially observed on Feb. 26, 2021.
Orbit diagram illustrating 2001 FO32 s close approach to Earth in 2021.
Orbit diagram illustrating 2001 FO32's close approach to Earth in 2021.
According to a database published by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, its size, and the closeness of its orbit classify the asteroid as "potentially hazardous"
Close to 100 known asteroids are set to fly past Earth before the end of 2021, NASA says, but asteroid 231937 is set to be the largest and fastest. And even though it will be far away as it zooms past Earth, this will be the asteroid’s closest encounter on record.
"A fascinating aspect of asteroids is that observers using backyard telescopes can spot them as apparently slow-moving 'stars,'" EarthSky said, reports CBS News. "It typically takes at least 5 to 10 minutes for backyard telescope users to detect a space rock's motion in front of its starfield. But asteroid 2001 FO32 will be sweeping past Earth at such a fast pace that, when it's closest, observers using 8-inch or larger telescopes might be able to detect its motion – its drift in front of the stars – in real-time."
More about asteroid 231937, fastest space rock, "potentially hazardous", March 21, Science
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