PASADENA (CBSLA) — As the Earth continues to battle the global coronavirus pandemic, it avoided a rather close call with a large asteroid Wednesday morning.
A 1.5-mile wide asteroid dubbed “1998 OR2” came within 3.9 million miles of Earth Wednesday just before 3 a.m. — a close call in space, but the planet was never in danger. At that distance, NASA says the asteroid passed more than 16 times farther away than the moon.
Asteroid, 1998 OR2, a well-known near-Earth object, will safely pass on Wednesday at 2:55am PT (5:55am ET). It will get no closer to Earth than 3.9 million miles. Astronomers will have the opportunity to study it in detail. https://t.co/JAUK1rMa2a@AsteroidWatch @NASASolarSystem pic.twitter.com/ekmhT3PbHF
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 28, 2020
According to NASA, close approaches by large asteroids are actually rare — the last time was in September 2017, when a 3-mile-wide asteroid called Florence fly by Earth at 18 lunar distances. NASA astronomers say they expect asteroids of this size to make such close passes roughly once every five years.
As for 1998 OR2, it is expected to swing by Earth a little closer — about four times the lunar distance —in 2079.