A big asteroid will pass by Earth on March 21

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The asteroid, 2001 FO32, estimated to be about 3,000 feet in diameter, twice the size of the Eiffel Tower, which was discovered 20 years ago, will pass by Earth within some 1.25 million miles (two million kilometers) on March 21. That is roughly 5.25 times the distance of the Earth from the Moon. “We know the orbital path of 2001 FO32 around the Sun very accurately,” said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies. “There is no chance the asteroid will get any closer to Earth than 1.25 million miles.” Astronomers hope to get a better understanding of the asteroid’s size and a rough idea of its composition by studying light reflecting off its surface. The rock poses no threat to the planet now or for centuries to come, said NASA.

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Amateur astronomers in some parts of the globe in the southern hemisphere and at low northern latitudes should be able to conduct their own observations using larger telescopes. NASA said 2001 FO32 will pass by at about 77,000 miles per hour faster than the speed at which most asteroids encounter Earth. It has an orbit that is tilted 39 degrees to Earth’s orbital plane. The space rock completes one orbit of the sun every 810 days (about 2 1/4 years).