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Current Affairs

2001 FO32

Date: 15 March 2021 Tags: Space

Issue

The largest asteroid called 2001 FO32 will pass by Earth at the nearest in 2021. It will not pose any threat for safety of the Earth.

 

Background

The asteroid provides a valuable opportunity for astronomers to get a good look at the rocky structure that was formed at the beginning of the solar system.

 

Details

  • Scientists have studied its orbital path around the Sun very accurately, since it was discovered 20 years ago and has been tracked in detail.

  • The asteroid will pass from a distance of 2 million km from Earth but the distance is considered near in astronomical terms.

  • The 2001 FO32 will pass at a speed of 124,000 kph which is faster than the speed at which most of the asteroids encounter Earth. 

  • The reason for the asteroid’s fast approach is its highly eccentric orbit around the Sun, which is tilted 39° to Earth’s orbital plane.

  • The tilted orbit of the asteroid takes it closer towards the Sun than Mercury, and twice as the distance from the Sun as Mars.

  • The 2001 FO32 will increase its speed as it makes its inner solar system journey. It completes one orbit of Sun every 810 days (about 2¼ years).

  • After its nearness later in the year, 2001 FO32 will not be coming closer to Earth again until 2052. In 2052, it will pass by at about seven lunar distances.

  • 2001 FO32 will be the biggest asteroid to pass near the earth in 2021. The last such large asteroid coming close was 1998 OR2 on April 29, 2020. 

 

Significance

  • The rendezvous will provide an opportunity for researchers to get a more accurate understanding of the asteroid’s size and albedo.

  • Studying the light features reflecting from the surface of asteroid will allow astronomers to measure the chemical components of the minerals present on the surface of the asteroid.

  • More than 95% of Earth-size asteroids have been discovered, studied and tracked. None of the asteroids have a chance of hitting the Earth in the next century.