The largest asteroid to fly past the Earth this year is set to make a close approach to our planet on March 21. Known as 2001 FO32, the asteroid is an enormous rock which is classified as a near-Earth object (NEO) and it is orbiting the Sun in close proximity to the Earth. NEOs are those celestial objects that are on a path which can potentially take them within 30 million miles of Earth’s orbit around the Sun. The US space agency NASA has said that about 25,000 NEOs have been identified till now, including a handful of comets and a vast number of asteroids.
As per NASA, potentially hazardous NEOs are those which have a diameter larger than 460 feet and have orbits approaching the Earth’s orbit to within 4.6 million miles. These NEOs are classified as potentially hazardous because they have orbits that come close to that of the Earth. Due to the gravitational pull of several planets, the paths of asteroids keep changing, and there is a possibility that over centuries and millennia, the changes in the orbits of these potentially hazardous NEOs cause them to cross the orbit of the Earth. This makes it important to track these asteroids over the coming decades to study the development in their orbits and any possible changes in their paths.
As per this definition of potentially hazardous NEOs, 2001 FO32 fits into this category, and its diameter is estimated to measure between 2,526 feet and 5,577 feet. The asteroid will come within a distance of 1.3 million miles of the Earth.