It was close in space terms. In real terms to you and I, however, asteroid was days away by spacecraft.
It was a close call–or not, depending on how you look at things–Wednesday morning as Asteroid 1998 OR2 approached and safely passed us by, a breathtaking 6.2 million km away from Earth’s orbit.
That’s close in terms of giant rocks hurtling through space–this particular hunk of space debris is about 2km wide, compared to 16+km for the asteroid that ended the dinosaur’s reign–but not close in a practical way. To put it in perspective, this asteroid is:
- 16 times further away from us than the moon
- About 1/10 of the way to Mars from us
Considering that the fastest we’ve ever been able to get anything to Mars is 128 days, even traveling a tenth of that distance, via spacecraft, is a monumental task because of the sheer distance.
NASA does note that this particular asteroid is “potentially” hazardous as slight shifts in an asteroid’s orbit, over the long run of hundreds or thousands of years, could cause a potential Earthbound collision, though their projections run through 2197 with several safe fly-bys in between.
Close approaches by space debris happen multiple times each day–you can check out a listing of what’s coming up here–though seeing something as large as 1998 OR2 isn’t exactly common.
For those looking for a visualizer of this or any celestial bodies spacein3D uses NASA data to help you see the universe.
Know your terms:
Meteoroid: fragments of asteroids, comets, and planets traveling through space.
Meteor: any meteorite that enters a planet’s atmosphere and burns up in the process; you might call this a shooting star.
Meteorite: your meteor didn’t completely burn up, instead colliding with a planet. The leftover, dense debris is a meteorite once it makes impact.
Asteroid: rock and metal form a hard surface; these are the leftovers from planet formation and they tend to stay in the asteroid belt in the middle of our solar system.
Comet: made primarily from ice, with a helping of dust for good measure, comets tend to shrink with each pass by the Sun, leaving a cool, streaking tail behind.