Photo: Arecibo Observatory/NASA/NSF

An Asteroid Will Pass by Earth Next Week, and People Say It Looks Like It’s Wearing a Face Mask

News Astronomy
by Eben Diskin Apr 24, 2020

A 1.2-mile-wide asteroid is passing by Earth next week, and it is drawing attention for its appearance rather than its flight pass.

If you look really, really closely at the Doppler radar image of the asteroid named “1998 OR2,” and you really want to see it, the asteroid appears to be wearing a pandemic-appropriate face mask.

The “mask sighting” might sound like a stretch, but there is actual scientific rationale behind the asteroid’s unique aesthetic. Anne Virkki, head of planetary radar at Arecibo Observatory, said in a statement, “The small-scale topographic features such as hills and ridges on one end of asteroid 1998 OR2 are fascinating scientifically. But since we are all thinking about Covid-19, these features make it look like 1998 OR2 remembered to wear a mask.”

The asteroid is the largest expected to pass Earth within the next two months, and was classified as a potentially hazardous object due to its size and proximity to Earth’s orbit. It will be closest on April 29 at 5:56 AM ET, when it will come within 3,908,791 miles of Earth.

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