NASA has been closely monitoring one of the largest and most dangerous asteroids with a collision course near Earth. In the event changes to its current path is altered and crashes on our planet, it would cause an extreme global event that will change Earth's weather and atmospheric conditions.
Dubbed 1998 OR2, the approaching asteroid has been on the Center for Near Earth Object Studies' (CNEOS) radar since it was first reported last year. NASA reports that its diameter is approximately 4.1 kilometers, nearly half the size of Mount Everest, and is moving at a speed of 31,320 kilometers per hour.
CNEOS estimates that the 1998 OR2 will fly past Earth on April 29, 2020, at which point its distance from our planet will be about 6.3 million kilometers from Earth's center. While this distance, in fact, is considerably far, and the planet is at a safe distance, the space agency still considers the asteroid a "potentially hazardous object."
The 1998 OR2 asteroid is a member of the Amor family, which NASA classifies as a group of space objects with a very wide orbit both around the Sun and the Earth. As it completes its cycle around the Sun, the massive asteroid flies dangerously close near the planet.
Being a monolithic near-Earth object with a collision path close to Earth, the 1998 OR2 is a potential threat to our planet. If changes to its current trajectory happen, it could very well end up directly on Earth.
There are a few factors that could cause changes in an asteroid's course, the first one being the Yarkovsky effect, which NASA says affects the semi-major axis of asteroids and can be described as the consequential force exerted on a celestial body due to changes in the temperature of a body due to external or internally-generated radiation. This could alter how the asteroid spins, as well as its orbit, causing it to head towards the Earth directly.
If this happens, the impact will cause a massive explosion, triggering violent earthquakes. Molten debris will shoot up in the sky and end up crashing on various parts of the planet. The blast will generate an intense heatwave affecting all objects up to hundreds of kilometers, incinerating all living things.
The aftermath of the event would eventually cause a nuclear winter, a severe and prolonged global climatic cooling caused by extensive debris and dust covering the Earth's atmosphere. Since sunlight is not able to reach and penetrate the surface, it would cause the demise of various species.