The largest asteroid of 2021, which flew past the Earth on March 21, approached the minimum distance to our planet – two million kilometers, which is more than five times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
The asteroid was discovered 20 years ago. Its name is 2001 FO32 and it is about a kilometer wide. Scientists tracked its route, calculated the trajectory of its movement, and were able to accurately predict the moment of its closest passage past the Earth.
An unusual feature of 2001 FO32 is the speed with which it passed the Earth. According to preliminary calculations, it was up to 124 thousand km/h. The reason is the elongated orbit of the asteroid's rotation, which is also tilted 39 degrees relative to the plane of the Earth's orbit.
When approaching our planet, 2001 FO32 accelerated like a stone thrown from a mountain, and then it pushed off and flew further, closer to the Sun, explains NASA. A complete revolution of the asteroid takes 810 Earth days.
Although two million kilometers is actually quite a long distance, on an astronomical scale it is still insignificant enough to define the moment when the 2001 FO32 flew by as a potentially dangerous incident.
On the other hand, it will allow scientists to explore a cosmic body that probably existed since the beginning of the solar system. With the help of infrared telescopes, scientists plan to detail the composition of the asteroid and compare it with the samples available on Earth.
As explained in NASA, different minerals absorb sunlight in different ways, and therefore, analysis of the solar spectrum, which is reflected from the surface of the asteroid, allows you to get an idea of its chemical composition.