2001 FO32, the biggest and fastest asteroid to pass close to Earth in 2021, is going to pay us a visit in less than two weeks, as it will passing our planet within two million kilometers. In space terms, that’s closer than it sounds, so the asteroid earned the title of PHA, or Potentially Hazardous Asteroid.
The asteroid approximately measures a kilometer in diameter and moves at the speed of just under 77,000 miles per hour, which sounds pretty nasty if it were to actually us. A professor of astrophysics at Queen’s University Belfast, Alan Fitzsimmons, told Dazed that if an asteroid that size were to make impact with the planet’s surface, it could result in mass devastation and worldwide climatic effects. There is however nothing of that sort to worry about, according to astronomers’ precise observations.
What we are interested the most here is how can we watch the asteroid’s “near miss?” The Virtual Telescope Project (VTP) will allow you to watch the asteroid passing in real time, and you won’t even have to go outside. Beginning at 11pm ET on March 21 – or 4am March 22 in the UK – the VTP will air a free live feed online.
This feed will follow the asteroid “a few hours after the fly-by, when it will be much fainter and barely visible from the Northern hemisphere, at dawn,” VTP explains. “This way, you can join the journey from the comfort of your home.” The asteroid’s (relatively) near miss won’t just give enthusiasts a chance to witness its flight in action, however. As Fitzsimmons explains, the fly-by will also provide a valuable chance to study large, near-Earth asteroids, and learn more about them at a safe distance. The next opportunity for an up-close look at Asteroid 2001 FO32 is set to come around on March 22, 2052.