A large asteroid is expected to safely pass by Earth on Wednesday morning, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
This event will give astronomers the opportunity to study the 1.5-mile-wide object. The asteroid is called 1998 OR2 and will make its closest approach at 5:55 a.m. EDT. It will get no closer than about 3.9 million miles, and is expected to pass more than 16 times farther away than the Moon.
Asteroid 1998 OR2 was discovered by the Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in July 1998. Astronomers have tracked it for the past two decades.
“We can say with confidence that this asteroid poses no possibility of impact for at least the next 200 years. Its next close approach to Earth will occur in 2079, when it will pass by closer — only about four times the lunar distance,” NASA said.
Asteroid 1998 OR2 is categorized as a large, “potentially hazardous asteroid," because very slight changes in its orbit may cause it to be more of a hazard to Earth than it does now.
“This is one of the reasons why tracking this asteroid during its close approach — using telescopes and especially ground-based radar — is important, as observations such as these will enable an even better long-term assessment of the hazard presented by this asteroid,” NASA said.
The previous close approach by a large asteroid was made by asteroid Florence in September 2017. That 3-mile-wide (5-kilometer-wide) object zoomed past Earth at 18 lunar distances.
Asteroids that big reflect much more light than smaller asteroids and are easier to detect with telescopes.
“It is extremely unlikely there could be an impact over the next century by one of these large asteroids, but efforts to discover all asteroids that could pose an impact hazard to Earth continue,” NASA said.