The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has spotted a very large asteroid heading towards the Earth. The asteorid has been dubbed by NASA as ‘potentially hazardous’. The agency says it could kill millions of people because of its size. Scientists have forecast that the asteroid will make its closest orbit to the earth on April 29.
According to NASA, this rock, named 52768 (1998 OR2), is expected to have the size that’s half that of the highest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest. The estimated size of this space rock will be around 1.8 to 4.1 kilometers in diameter.
A statement released by the US independent federal agency on its website claimed, “An asteroid which is big enough to end civilisation should it ever hit will make a close approach to our planet in April, NASA’s asteroid trackers have found. The asteroid is listed by NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies’ (CNEOS) in California, US. The asteroid has been officially called 52768 (1998 OR2) and is estimated measure up 2.5 miles (4.1km) across.”
The issue of concern however that, according to NASA, the asteroid may actually collide with the earth in the distant future, and the effects could be devastating. The scientists say that orbital gravity of the the Mars and other planetary bodies may cause an asteroid to change trajectory and may be headed towards the earth for a collision.
Though the chances of ‘collision’ are too low, NASA said that they are still studying about other asteroids that may harm the planet since an estimated number of 30 new ‘near-Earth objects’ (NEOs) every week were being spotted. In fact, at the start of 2019, they had discovered a total of more than 19,000 objects coming towards near the planet.
“Our goal is to discover and track all the potentially dangerous asteroids and comets long before they are likely to approach Earth,” said NEAT Principal Investigator Eleanor Helin.
According to Astrophysicist Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy, the asteroid was about 15.5 million miles (25 million km) from Earth on March 24.
But the space rock is already visible to some telescopes, appearing as a bright dot of light against the starlit sky.
Dr Masi will track and stream online the asteroid’s flyby next month.
He said: “When we imaged it, Asteroid 1998 OR2 was about 25 millions of kilometres from us.
“This 1.8 to 4.1km large asteroid will come as close as 6.3 millions of kilometres from us next April 29 – more than 16 times the average lunar distance: it will not hit us – becoming bright enough to be seen with modest optical equipment.”
According to the US space agency NASA, asteroids and comets are considered potentially hazardous if they measure more than 492ft (150m) across.