The largest asteroid to pass “close” to Earth in 2021 has already set a date for its visit: discovered two decades ago, the 2001 FO32 will reach its closest point to our planet on March 21. It is the fastest detectable celestial body of the year, reaching an impressive 123,887 kilometers per hour (34.4 kilometers per second).
On the occasion, observers equipped with telescopes of 8 inches or larger will be able to see their movement in real time, using other stars as a reference, which is somewhat impressive, considering that such displacements take, on average, 5 to 10 minutes to be perceived.
At 1:03 pm (Brasília time), the asteroid will be the shortest distance from here: 2,016,351 kilometers, equivalent to 5 times the path between planet Earth and the Moon. Measuring from 767 meters to 1.7 kilometers in diameter, it is greater than 97% of known asteroids, but it is still considered a small space object.
Anyway, anyone who thinks that it will be as bright in the sky as other shows recently seen is mistaken.
How and where to see?
According to EarthSky, without the aid of equipment, the 2001 FO32 will be too opaque, making any eye test impossible; but, for those who have devices, it will be enough to direct them to the right point at the right time, with the help of tools offered by Stellarium or The Sky Live, for example.
While onlookers in the Northern Hemisphere will have to make a certain effort to appreciate the passage of the asteroid, since it will be at a very low point, sliding through the constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius, in the Southern Hemisphere there will be an advantage in this case. In fact, another opportunity like this will not appear anytime soon.
Our next meeting with the specimen will take place only on March 22, 2052 and will be more distant than this time, since such a great approach will take at least 2 centuries from 2021 to happen.