The massive space rock known as 1998 OR2 is currently swinging around the Sun and will be heading Earth’s way next year. NASA estimates the object is between 1.8 and 4.1 kilometres wide – a size which could cause global devastation on Earth. The asteroid is set to swing close to Earth on April 29 2020, when it will be just 0.04 AU from Earth.
One AU, or astronomical unit, is the distance between the Earth and the Sun, so coming within just 0.04 AU is perilously close.
For reference, Mars – the planet which humans are hoping to reach – is around 0.5 AU.
With a max size of 4.1 kilometres, the asteroid could easily destroy a country the size of the UK, with the dinosaur which wiped out the dinosaurs and threatened global extinction measuring 10 kilometres.
When 1998 OR2 was first discovered in 1998, along with 1998 OH, NASA said: “The newly discovered asteroids 1998 OH and 1998 OR2 are both large enough to cause global effects if one impacted Earth, and both are classified as ‘potentially hazardous objects’ because they pass periodically near Earth’s orbit.”
While next year’s approach will be relatively close, 1998 OR2 will come even closer when it reaches its closest point in April 2079.
At that point, the asteroid, which takes 3.7 years to complete a full orbit, will fly by Earth at a distance of 0.01 AU – around 1.5 million kilometres.
Scientists estimate that a life-ending asteroid, such as the one which put an end to the dinosaur’s reign, would collide with Earth every 100 million years or so.
He said: “That’s a tough one. Movies tell us they would keep it secret. There’s a lot of sense to that. Mass panic can be more dangerous than the actual event.
“But my experience working in government is that the government really isn’t good at keeping anything secret unless it begins within a secretive part of the culture, like the military.
“Something like this would likely be first discovered by someone that couldn’t spell ‘security clearance’. It would be evident to astronomers all over the world.
“Feeling helpless, the government would likely just tell us to ‘hunker down’ and duct tape our window seams.
“Then the Democrats would blame it on the Republicans for ignoring global warming and the Republicans would blame it on the Democrats for not praying in school.”