On March 21, asteroid 2001 FO32 will fly by the Earth. In today’s article, we’ll tell you more about this “potentially hazardous” space rock.
You can also watch our video about potentially hazardous asteroids.
What kind of asteroid is 2001 FO32?
Asteroid 231937 (2001 FO32) is an Apollo class asteroid about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) in diameter — comparable in length to the Golden Gate Bridge. Apollo asteroids are a group of space rocks with Earth-crossing orbits. The group was named after the first asteroid of this kind ever discovered — 1862 Apollo. It is the most numerous group of near-Earth objects with more than 10,000 recorded asteroids.
Although 2001 FO32 is quite small compared to large asteroids like 4 Vesta (326 miles or 525 kilometers in diameter), it’s still larger than 97% of all the asteroids known to us. It’s also one of the fastest asteroids that have ever flown by our planet — it’s traveling at a speed of about 21 miles (34.4 kilometers) per second, relative to the Earth. That’s 100 times faster than the speed of sound!
How close will 2001 FO32 get to the Earth?
As you can guess from its name, asteroid 2001 FO32 is not newly discovered — it was for the first time observed in 2001. Its orbital period equals 2.2 years. This year’s pass of the asteroid will be the closest for the next 200 years — it will get to the Earth as close as 0.013 AU, or 5 lunar distances (one lunar distance is approximately 250,000 miles or 400,000 kilometers). Next close approaches will occur in 2052, 2103, 2134, and 2185.
Is asteroid 2001 FO32 dangerous?
As 2001 FO32 is comparatively large, and has a minimum orbit intersection distance with the Earth of less than 0.05 AU, it was classified as “potentially hazardous”. You can find it in the list of potentially hazardous asteroids. This characteristic means that the asteroid can cause significant damage in the case of impact. However, rest assured — 2001 FO32 won’t pose any threat to us. Its trajectory is well calculated, and astronomers know exactly what distance from the Earth it will pass at.
How to see asteroid 2001 FO32?
On March 21, at 16:03 GMT, asteroid 2001 FO32 will get closest to the Earth and reach a magnitude of 11.7. Unfortunately, it will be too faint to be observed with the naked eye, but you can easily spot it through a telescope with an aperture of 8″ (20 centimeters) or larger. As the asteroid is moving exceptionally fast, you might even be able to detect its motion across the sky in real-time.
To find out the correct location of the asteroid in the night sky, use the Star Walk 2 app. Launch the app, tap the magnifier icon in the lower-left corner of the screen, and type “2001 FO32” in the search field. Then tap on the search result, and you will see the exact location of the asteroid. Use it to aim your telescope correctly.
If you’re a proud owner of a telescope, you should definitely take your chance at observing the biggest and fastest known asteroid of 2021. We wish you happy observations!