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Don’t Worry, a Giant Asteroid Isn’t Going to Hit Earth

Photo: A Doppler radar image of asteroid 1998 OR2, Arecibo Observatory/NASA/NSF
By Madison Mooney

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, but you can rest easy knowing that at least a catastrophic asteroid isn’t on its way to destroy the Earth. Though it has been the subject of sensational news coverage, asteroid 52768 (1998 OR2) will pass harmlessly by our planet on Wednesday, April 29.

Why is asteroid 1998 OR2 such a big deal?

Asteroid 1998 OR2’s is being called “potentially hazardous” simply because of its size, which NASA estimates is somewhere between 1.8 and 4.1 kilometers wide. If an asteroid of this magnitude were to strike the Earth, it would do a significant amount of damage. However, 1998 OR2 will miss us by about 15-16 lunar distances—one lunar distance being 400,000 km. To put this into context, about 25 smaller space objects are going to pass by us at a closer distance than that in the next 48 hours. Some will even come as close as a single lunar distance.

Can I view 1998 OR2 as it passes Earth?

Backyard astronomers may find this uncommon flyby to be a great opportunity, as 1998 OR will be bright enough to view through a small telescope as it reaches its nearest point to Earth. The moment of its closest approach will be on April 29 at 2:56 am AZ/PT (5:56 EDT). At a magnitude of 10.5, the meteor will be best viewed through a telescope that is at least 6 or 8 inches, weather permitting.