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'Potentially hazardous asteroid' will make its closest-ever approach to Earth on April Fools' Day (yes, really)

Very large space rocks that fly within 4.6 million miles (7.5 million kilometers) of Earth's solar orbit are known as potentially hazardous asteroids.
Very large space rocks that fly within 4.6 million miles (7.5 million kilometers) of Earth's solar orbit are known as potentially hazardous asteroids. (Image credit: Mark Garlick/Science Photo Library/Getty Images)

Astronomers have confirmed that a "potentially hazardous" asteroid is set to make its closest-ever approach to Earth this Friday (April 1). However, there is no need to panic; astronomers say the massive space rock will miss us by around 4.6 million miles (7.4 million kilometers).

The asteroid, known as 2007 FF1, is between 360 feet and 656 feet (110 and 260 meters) in diameter, according to SpaceReference.com (opens in new tab), a database that compiles information from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and the International Astronomical Union. The rock 2007 FF1 is known as an Apollo-class asteroid, of which there are around 15,000, meaning that its orbit around the sun (which takes 684 days) crosses with Earth's orbit. The asteroid is classified as potentially hazardous because of its size and relatively close orbit to Earth.

A blurry photo of the space rock hurtling in our direction was captured by the Virtual Telescope Project (opens in new tab) on March 24, when the asteroid was around 7.2 million miles (11.6 million km) from Earth. This is the first evidence that confirms the asteroid will make its flyby of Earth as predicted by past models.

Related: Why are asteroids and comets such weird shapes?

The Virtual Telescope captured this image of the potentially hazardous asteroid 2007 FF1 on March 24, 2022. (Image credit: The Virtual Telescope Project)
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The asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth at 4:35 p.m. ET, when it will be around 4.6million miles away. For reference, the average distance between Earth and the moon is around 238,855 miles (384,400 km), according to NASA, which will make the asteroid around 30 times farther away than the moon is from Earth when it arrives.

The upcoming flyby is the closest approach to Earth that 2007 FF1 has made since it was discovered in March 2007. In August 2020, the asteroid reached a minimum distance to Earth of around 10.8 million miles (17.3 million km) and was traveling at around 29,800 mph (47,950 km/h), according to SpaceReference.org. The next closest approach is estimated to take place on April 2, 2037, when it will reach a minimum distance to Earth of around 4.9 million miles (7.9 million km). 

Originally published on Live Science.

Harry Baker
Staff Writer

Harry is a U.K.-based staff writer at Live Science. He studied Marine Biology at the University of Exeter (Penryn campus) and after graduating started his own blog site "Marine Madness," which he continues to run with other ocean enthusiasts. He is also interested in evolution, climate change, robots, space exploration, environmental conservation and anything that's been fossilized. When not at work he can be found watching sci-fi films, playing old Pokemon games or running (probably slower than he'd like).