Asteroid Visiting Earth's Orbit 'Remembered to Wear a Mask', Says Scientist

Asteroid 1998 OR2’s social distancing skills are out of this world.

An asteroid approaching Earth this week appears to be adhering to coronavirus pandemic mandates.

Researchers at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico have been following the path of a mile-long asteroid called 1998 OR2 and, while noting interesting aspects of the space rock, they couldn’t help but see a resemblance in current personal protective equipment.

"The small-scale topographic features such as hills and ridges on one end of asteroid 1998 OR2 are fascinating scientifically," Anne Virkki, head of Planetary Radar at the observatory, said in a press release from University of Central Florida. "But since we are all thinking about COVID-19 these features make it look like 1998 OR2 remembered to wear a mask."

Asteroid 1998 OR2 is expected to pass by Earth at a distance of 3.9 million miles, which is still invaluable for research purposes.

"Although this asteroid is not projected to impact Earth, it is important to understand the characteristics of these types of objects to improve impact-risk mitigation technologies," Virkki said.

To put in perspective, the moon is orbiting 238,900 million miles away from Earth.

While it won’t cause any harm to our planet now, the rock is still in a "special class of near-Earth asteroids called Potentially Hazardous Objects."

PHOs are larger than 500 feet and come within 5 million miles of Earth’s orbit, according to the press release.

In the future, however, the asteroid could cause problems, which is why the team of scientists are keeping a close watch on it.

"In 2079, asteroid 1998 OR2 will pass Earth about 3.5 times closer than it will this year, so it is important to know its orbit precisely," researcher Flaviane Venditti added.

For now, asteroid 1998 OR2’s social distancing skills are out of this world.

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