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The largest asteroid this year is approaching Earth

The official NASA website reports that on March 21 at 19:03 Moscow time, asteroid 2001 FO32 will approach the Earth as close as possible. It will fly at a distance of about two million kilometers and will become the largest asteroid that has approached our planet this year.

Discovered in March 2001, the near-Earth asteroid from the Apollo 2001 group FO32 has a diameter of 914 meters. As it approaches the Earth, it will move at an unusually high speed - about 124 thousand kilometers per hour. This is more than most other asteroids.

The reason for such a fast approach lies in the highly inclined and elongated circumsolar orbit of the asteroid. It either brings 2001 FO32 closer to the Sun than Mercury, then takes it twice as far as Mars . The asteroid orbits the star once every 810 days.

"Little is known about this object now, so its approach provides scientists with an excellent opportunity to learn a lot about this asteroid," - quoted in a press release from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the words of chief scientist Lance Benner (Lance Benner).

Despite the fact that the asteroid 2001 FO32 belongs to the category of "potentially dangerous", there is no threat of a collision with the Earth. The closest distance to it will be about 5.25 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon .

"We know very well the 2001 FO32 orbital path around the Sun because it was discovered 20 years ago and we have been tracking it ever since," said Paul Chodas, director of NASA's Center for the Study of Near Earth Objects (CNEOS). chances are that the asteroid will come closer than 1.25 million miles to Earth. "

After passing the Earth in 2001, FO32 will continue its journey, and will approach our planet as close as possible in 2052: then it will pass approximately seven lunar distances, or 2.8 million kilometers.
Scientists estimate 2001 FO32 will be the largest asteroid to fly so close to Earth this year. The last significant approach of a large asteroid took place on April 29, 2020, then 1998 OR2 approached the Earth. Asteroid 2001 FO32 is slightly smaller than 1998 OR2, but it will be three times closer to Earth.

During the rendezvous, astronomers hope to get a more accurate idea of ​​the size and albedo of the asteroid, as well as try to figure out something about its composition using NASA's IRTF infrared telescope, located at the top of the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii .
"We're trying to do geology with a telescope," said Vishnu Reddy, assistant professor at the University of Arizona's Moon and Planets Laboratory in Tucson.

When sunlight hits the surface of an asteroid, minerals in the rocks absorb certain wavelengths and reflect others. By studying the spectrum of light reflecting off a surface, astronomers can measure the chemical traces of minerals.

"We're going to use IRTF to get the infrared spectrum," Reddy continues. "Once we know it, we can do a comparison with meteorites to find out what minerals 2001 FO32 contains."
More than 95 percent of near-Earth asteroids 2001 FO32 or larger have already been discovered, tracked, and cataloged. None of the large asteroids in the catalog have any chance of hitting Earth within the next century, NASA experts say.

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