The biggest asteroid of 2020 will zoom past Earth on April 29 — adhering to 'social distancing' and even wearing a mask

The biggest asteroid of 2020 will zoom past Earth on April 29 — adhering to 'social distancing' and even wearing a mask
The biggest asteroid of the year didn't get the notice that Earth was on lockdownBI India
  • The biggest asteroid of 2020 — Asteroid 52768 (1998 OR2) — didn’t get the memo that Earth is under lockdown.
  • It will be zooming past the planet on April 29.
  • It will be 6.3 million kilometres from Earth, which is the closest that it’s come to the planet since it was discovered in 1998.
The biggest asteroid of the year — Asteroid 52768 (1998 OR2) — is expected to fly past the planet April 29. Earth may be in lockdown but the asteroid is ensuring that its taking the necessary precautions as it slowly edges closer.

According to astronomers at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the asteroid 'looks like' its wearing a mask due the mountains and ridges on its surface.
And, it will remain 6.3 million kilometres away— 16 times further away than the Moon — at its closest approach to Earth.

The asteroid has been classified as ‘potentially hazardous’ by the Centre of Near-Earth Object Studies ( CNEOS). This is because it’s bigger than 140 meters in size and will be under 8 million kilometres from Earth, which is enough to cause ‘global effects’ if it were to crash into the planet.

However, an analysis by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Asteroid Watch shows it has no plans of actually breaching the Earth’s atmosphere.

“The small-scale topographic features such as hills and ridges on one end of asteroid 1998 OR2 are fascinating scientifically. But since we are all thinking about COVID-19 these features make it look like 1998 OR2 remembered to wear a mask,” said Anne Virkki, head of Planetary Radar at the observatory.

The asteroid’s visit on April 29 will be the closest that it has been to the planet since its discovery on 24 July 1988 by NEAT at Haleakala. The only time that it will be any close will be on 16 April 2079, according to NASA’s estimates.

“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,” said Flaviane Venditti, another research scientists at the Arecibo Observatory.

“Although this asteroid is not projected to impact Earth, it is important to understand the characteristics of these types of objects to improve impact-risk mitigation technologies,” Virkki added.

Until the Apophis or 'God of Chaos' asteroid comes around on 2029 or Asteroid 2011 UL 21 passes by in 2024, the upcoming trip of 1998 OR 2 will be the most significant of the decade.

See also:
The 10 biggest asteroids that pose a threat to Earth in 2020

There are 19 interstellar asteroids between Jupiter and Neptune ⁠— and even computers can’t predict where they are headed