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  • This asteroid is practicing physical distancing and wearing a mask

    A a big — very big — asteroid passed through Earth’s neighborhood today!

    Asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 passed at a safe physical distance of about 4 million miles. Its closest approach was at 4:56 am CDT on Wednesday, April 29. 

    To put that distance into better perspective, imagine the space between the Earth and the Moon. In that distance, you could fit 30 Earth-sized planets. Asteroid 1998 OR2 is about 16x farther away from Earth than our moon, meaning you could fit 480 Earths between us as the asteroid! 

    According to current estimates, it's probably a bit over a mile wide.

    Traveling at about 19,000 miles per hour and rotating on its axis once every four hours, radar images  show that asteroid 1998 OR2 is mostly spherical and, at some angles, even appears to be wearing a face mask! 

    Although this asteroid is categorized as “potentially hazardous," there is no threat of an impact on Earth. Objects classified as “potentially hazardous" must be within about 20 Moon distances from Earth and have an absolute magnitude of at least 22 or smaller (the smaller the number, the higher the brightness).

    As we saw, though, asteroid 1998 OR2 is much too far away to be a cause for concern.

    This flyby was the most significant approach of an asteroid until 2027, when asteroid (4953) 1990 MU will safely pass by Earth at 12 lunar distances.

    We can learn so much from studying visits of nearby asteroids. The information we learn can help further space exploration, investigate resourcing mining and simply learn more about the origin of the solar system.

    Most importantly, the more we learn about asteroids, the more we can understand their origins, track their orbits and keep the Earth safe.  

    Follow SCI on social media or visit www.sciowa.org/astronomy to learn more about space exploration and astronomical occurrences.

  • We're adapting and innovating

    To our community,

    First of all, I hope you are doing well, staying healthy and taking care of yourself. Today, I want to share some updates from SCI as we navigate this rapidly evolving situation and the impacts COVID-19 is having on our community, our field and our organization.

    Our building has been closed to the public since March 16, and we will be extending our temporary closure through April 30. But just as you are adapting to working and schooling from home, we are adapting to bringing our experiences to you digitally. In the coming days, we will roll out a series of virtual learning resources to help you “Go Beyond with SCI.” We hope these will help you fill your days – and learn something new! Until then, you can visit www.sciowa.org/athome for some of the other activities and online resources we’ve developed over the years.

    We also have been forced to confront some difficult realities. Many cultural institutions, including SCI, depend on having people visit our public spaces every day. Without those revenues, the financial impact has been and will continue to be severe. In order to maintain our operations now and be able to successfully ramp them back up when we are able to reopen, our board and leadership made the difficult decision this week to reduce staffing levels to only the essential employees. These are unprecedented times.

    We need your support now more than ever. I know the financial needs in our communities are great, but if you are able, please consider making a contribution to help offset the gap in lost revenue and keep our mission of engaging and inspiring Iowans along their journey of lifelong science learning alive. A gift of $50, $100, $500 or more can make a big difference. Click here to donate directly to SCI online.

    We will weather this storm. And we need science now more than ever. Thank you, again, for your unwavering support. We will continue to adapt and innovate as we navigate these uncertain times together.

    With hope,

    Curt Simmons
    President & CEO

    Other Ways to Help  

    • Urge Congress to support museum community economic relief Learn more
    • Contact the U.S. Senate to protect the health of the attractions industry Learn more
    • Donate to SCI to help offset the lost revenue and maintain essential staffing during this unprecedented time Donate now