A big asteroid 1998 OR2 will fly by within 3.9 million miles (6.3 million kilometers) of planet Earth on Wednesday morning (April 29). But there is no need to panic as there is zero chance that the asteroid will hit Earth during the fly by. Though it seems like a close shave in the context of the visible universe but the distance is over 90 billion light years.
According to astronomers, at its closest approach, the 1998 OR2, which is around 1.5-mile-wide (2.4 km), will be around 16 times farther from us than the moon is from the Earth. It is to be noted that the moon orbits Earth at an average distance of 385,000 km.
"There are no asteroids which have any significant chance of hitting the Earth that are of any significant size," Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said during a pre-recorded "NASA Science Live" webcast. "There are none on our list," he added.
NASA clkaims to have found and tracked more than 90% of the near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) that are least 0.6 miles (1 km) wide and are big enough to cause heavy damage if they hit the earth's surface.
Chodas and Lindley Johnson, NASA's Planetary Defense Officer and program executive of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office, however told Space.com that such relief should not breed complacency.
"Impact of the Earth by an asteroid large enough to do damage at the surface is an extremely rare event, but it's an inevitable event," Johnson said.
Both Johnson and Chodas stressed that the inevitability makes asteroid discovery and tracking efforts very important as it allows us to spot it far enough in advance.