The size of this asteroid means it is big enough to destroy our blue planet if it were to collide with us. But rest assured, the asteroid, which has officially been dubbed Asteroid 52768 (1998 OR2), will be at its closest to the Earth’s orbit on Wednesday April 29 at 5:56 a.m. EDT, but will still be around 6.29 million km away, the equivalent of 16 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
First discovered in 1998, the asteroid has been under observation by the Virtual Telescope Project in Rome and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico since April 18. Several satellite images from Arecibo have also recently been shared on social media.
A ‘potentially hazardous’ object
From their observations, scientists have also been able to determine that the asteroid measures two kilometres wide, which is more than big enough to destroy the Earth if there were to be a collision. The asteroid is classified as a potentially hazardous object for our planet due to the fact that the asteroid will come within less than 7.5 million km of the Earth’s orbit on 29th April.
Therefore, and in the purely astronomical sense of the word, the asteroid will ‘graze' the Earth today, April 29. The asteroid satisfies all the criteria to be classified as an ‘Amor' asteroid, which means it crosses the orbit of Mars but does not cross Earth’s orbit.
We haven’t heard the last of this asteroid
The distance between 52768 (1998 OR2) and Earth will not be ancient history on April 30. As the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (California Institute of Technology and NASA) states, the object will also pass close by our planet several times over the decades to come, in 2031, 2042, 2068 and 2079, by which point it will only be around 1.7 million km away from the Earth - ideal for astronomers.