By: Linda Tellez-Ruiz
In the morning, at 4:46AM, on April 29, an asteroid that goes by the name of ‘1998 OR2’ safely passed by earth. The asteroid was discovered in 1988. The asteroid was an estimated 1.2 miles wide and was moving at 19,461mph.
The asteroid was 16 times farther than the distance between the earth and the moon. So we were pretty safe and sure that it wasn’t going to hit us. Even though it wasn’t going to hit us, it was still labeled as potentially hazardous. Scientists label that dangerous because the asteroid came within 5,000,000 miles of the earth’s orbit.
We’re safe now but in 2079, the same asteroid will pass by us again 3.5 times closer than it did this year, and that is why scientists are monitoring its orbit to know where it is exactly. Scientists have been tracking it for the past two decades, and they know its orbital trajectory very precisely. With this information they know that there is no possibility that the asteroid will hit us in the next 200 years.
The worst thing that could happen is the asteroid changing its orbit, which is also changing its path, causing it to maybe pass by earth a lot closer. Close approaches like these are very very rare especially with the size of this asteroid.
Another thing that we know for sure is that astronomers have already discovered almost all asteroids about the size of 1998 or larger: 98% of them to be exact. And those are just the ones that will have a close encounter with earth, although it is very unlikely that they would have any impact.
If an asteroid was going to come in contact with the earth, astronomers have researched many techniques to keep that from happening, although that task would be very complicated depending on the size of the asteroid. One of the strategies to knock an asteroid off its course is to attach rockets to one that would steer it away from hitting us.
Another method is to shoot it. This method would not get it off its course.
Another way that is a lot more complicated, is capturing it inside an inflatable bag that would re-directed somewhere else.