You can take the measure of the big space rock that will zoom by Earth early Wednesday morning (April 28).
A video composed of radar images captured by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico shows the near-Earth asteroid 1998 OR2 tumbling through space on its way toward our planet.
But don’t worry; there’s no chance of a collision with the roughly 2.5-mile-wide (4 kilometers) space rock on this pass. The asteroid will miss Earth by 3.9 million miles (6.3 million km), about 16 times the distance from Earth to the moon, during closest approach at 5:56 a.m. EDT (1056 GMT) on Wednesday.
This series of radar images show the asteroid 1998 OR2 as seen by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico on April 19, 2020 as it tumbled through space, rotating once every 4.1 hours. (Image credit: Arecibo Observatory/NASA/NSF via NAIC)
The Arecibo images put something of a face on 1998 OR2 — and that face, eerily enough in these pandemic-tinged times, seems to be wearing a mask. (From some angles, anyway; the mask disappears at points as the asteroid rotates, which it does once every 4.1 hours.)
If you’d like to learn more about 1998 OR2, its flyby and potentially hazardous asteroids in general, you’re in luck: The Slooh online observatory will air a webcast about the space rock tonight (April 28) at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT), which will include live telescope views of 1998 OR2. (The asteroid will not be visible to the naked eye, even at closest approach.)
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.