Shocking as Asteroid approaching earth wears face mask

A massive asteroid is approaching Earth, and it looks like it’s wearing a face mask, a startling reminder of the coronavirus pandemic.

The space rock, known as 1998 OR2, will be nearly 4 million miles away from Earth on Wednesday at 5:59 a.m. ET – classifying it as a “potentially hazardous” asteroid despite the impossibility of it posing a threat to Earth anytime soon.

A newly-captured image by Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico brings its own surprise. As the asteroid approaches our planet, it looks as if it’s wearing its own mask – and may very well be conducting its own social distancing practices.

“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 Arecibo Observatory, said in a statement.

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“But since we are all thinking about COVID-19 these features make it look like 1998 OR2 remembered to wear a mask.”

It’s classified as a “potentially hazardous” asteroid because it is more than 500 feet in diameter and closer than 4,650,000 miles to Earth.

A scan view

“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,” she said.

The asteroid, which is about 1 mile in diameter, has been traveling at nearly 20,000 mph since its discovery in 1998.

Though it may not come anywhere near Earth in the coming weeks, Flaviane Venditti, a researcher at the observatory, said in a statement that in 2079, it “will pass Earth about 3.5 times closer than it will this year.”

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