Asteroid »2001 FO32«: Large chunk flew close to Earth

Probably the largest asteroid that scientists believe will come close to Earth this year flew past our planet on Sunday. The celestial body with the name »2001 FO32« and a diameter of several hundred meters should approach the earth within about two million kilometers, the US space agency Nasa announced last week. That is a little more than five times as far as the distance from the earth to the moon.

Nasa said there was no danger of a collision – neither now nor in the future. “It is stable, it is not on a risk course,” the asteroid expert from the European space agency Esa, Detlef Koschny, told the dpa news agency before the event.

“We know the orbit of› 2001 FO32 ‹around the sun very well, we’ve been tracking it since it was discovered 20 years ago,” said Paul Chodas from the Center for Near Earth Object Studies in California. “There’s no way the asteroid will get closer than two million kilometers to Earth.”

Even amateur astronomers could see the asteroid with the appropriate equipment, Koschny had announced. Two million kilometers are nothing in the dimension of the solar system.

“2001 FO32”, which orbits the sun once every 810 days, reportedly flew past the earth at an exceptionally fast speed of around 124,000 km / h – and will not come similarly close again until 2052. The NASA scientists wanted to take the chance during the flyby to examine the asteroid more closely.

You will observe the chunk with the IRTF infrared telescope (Infrared Telescope Facility), which is located on the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii. She is particularly interested in the geology of the asteroid. They measure how strongly its surface reflects light. By examining the reflected light spectrum, the researchers can see the chemical fingerprints of the minerals on the surface of the asteroid.

The Esa have their own programs to look at the objects that are critical for the earth. “2001 FO32” would be a typical candidate in terms of size for trying to distract him from his career in order to avoid a possible collision with the earth – if he did not fly at a harmless distance. An asteroid of this size could destroy an entire country, Koschny had said. For comparison: the explosion of a 20-meter chunk in 2013 wreaked havoc in the Russian metropolis of Chelyabinsk. The shock wave injured around 1,500 people.

Just last year, Esa initiated an asteroid defense project named after the Greek goddess »Hera«. The aim is to investigate how the impact of a NASA probe on an asteroid.

Asteroids are chunks of stone and metals that move around the sun. They come from the more than 150 million kilometers wide asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter. Countless chunks circle around the center of our system. Asteroids are holdovers from the early days of our solar system.

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