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A giant asteroid – the largest to sweep past Earth in 2021 – will make its closest approach on Sunday (March 21).
The giant space rock called 2001 FO32 has an estimated diameter of between 440-660 metres. In comparison, the Eiffel Tower is just 320m tall.
It will approach Earth at a distance of about 1.2 million miles, US space agency NASA said.
That distance is more than five times as far as the Earth to the moon.
And scientists say it poses no risk to our planet, having studied it for about two decades.
Detlef Koschny, an asteroid expert at the European Space Agency, told DPA News Agency: “It’s stable, it’s not on a risky course.”
Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies, added: “We know the orbital path of 2001 FO32 around the sun very accurately, since it was discovered 20 years ago and has been tracked ever since.
“There is no chance the asteroid will get any closer to Earth than 1.25 million miles.”
The distance is still close in astronomical terms, which is why 2001 FO32 has been designated a “potentially hazardous asteroid.”
The asteroid, which orbits the sun once every 810 days, will fly past Earth at about 77,000 miles per hour, faster than the speed at which most asteroids encounter Earth.
After its harmless visit on Sunday, it will not come close to Earth again until 2052, when it will pass by at about 1.75 million miles.
The last notably large asteroid close approach was that of 1998 OR2 on April 29, 2020. While 2001 FO32 is smaller than 1998 OR2, it will be three times nearer to Earth.
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