Astronomers have spotted an asteroid speeding towards Earth, expected to fly by our planet next week. The space rock was dubbed 52768 (1998 OR2), and it is currently monitored by scientists from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
The team of astronomers couldn’t help but notice a rather accustomed silhouette after managing to capture a new radar perspective of the asteroid.
“The small-scale topographic features such as hills and ridges on one end of asteroid 1998 OR2 are fascinating scientifically,” research scientist Anne Virkki said in a press release on Thursday. “But since we are all thinking about COVID-19, these features make it look like 1998 OR2 remembered to wear a mask.”
Not the First Time it Visits Earth
Arecibo data details that 1998 OR2 is approximately 1.2 miles across and rotates about once every four hours. Researchers at NASA‘s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies stated that the space rock would make its closest approach to Earth on April 29th, but it will allegedly still be about 16 times more distant than the Moon, which means that it will pass at about 4 million miles (approximately 6 million kilometers) distance from our planet.
Asteroid 1998 OR2 is labeled as a Potentially Hazardous Object. These objects are larger than 500 feet (152 meters) and approach Earth within 5 million miles (8 million kilometers). After it was identified, NASA said that it is sufficiently large to cause major effects of it collided with Earth, but the asteroid doesn’t pose any threat to us. This won’t also be the only time the space rock passes by Earth. Apparently, next time it will visit will come a bit closer.
“The radar measurements allow us to know more precisely where the asteroid will be in the future, including its future close approaches to Earth,” said Flaviane Venditti, a research scientist at the observatory. “In 2079, asteroid 1998 OR2 will pass Earth about 3.5 times closer than it will this year, so it is important to know its orbit precisely.”