Looking Ahead at Navroz and Beyond With Renewed Hope and Optimism: (1) NASA Says 2021’s Largest Asteroid Will Pass Close to Our Planet on March 21, But Presents No Threat of Collision Now or For Centuries to Come!

Compiled and Adapted by MALIK MERCHANT
from the NASA Website

The largest asteroid to pass by Earth this year will approach within about 2 million kilometers (1.25 million miles) of our planet on March 21, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said on Thursday March 11, 2021.

Discovered 20 years ago and named 2001 FO32, the asteroid is at the smaller end of the scale, but it will still be the largest asteroid to pass this close to our planet in 2021. The last notably large asteroid close approach was that of 1998 OR2 on April 29, 2020. While 2001 FO32 is somewhat smaller than 1998 OR2, it will be three times nearer to Earth.

Though 2001 FO32 has been classified as “potentially hazardous asteroid” in terms of the distance from earth in astronomical terms, NASA has said that there is no threat of a collision with our planet now or for centuries to come. “We know the orbital path of 2001 FO32 around the Sun very accurately, since it was discovered 20 years ago and has been tracked ever since,” said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), which is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California.

Over 95% of near-Earth asteroids the size of 2001 FO32 or larger have been discovered, tracked, and cataloged. None of the large asteroids in the catalog has any chance of impacting Earth over the next century, and it is extremely unlikely that any of the remaining undiscovered asteroids of this size could impact Earth, either. Still, efforts continue to discover all asteroids that could pose an impact hazard. The more information that can be gathered about these objects, the better mission designers can prepare to deflect them if any were to threaten Earth in the future.

The NASA Infrared Telescope Facility telescope during a lunar eclipse
The NASA Infrared Telescope Facility telescope during a lunar eclipse. The Facility is one of the telescopes that makes up the Maunakea Observatories on the Big Island of Hawai’i. The Facility provides vital and unequaled capabilities in planetary research while supporting NASA’s flight missions and Strategic Goal for Planetary Science. Maunakea is a place of immense reverance and cultural importance within the indigenous Hawaiian community. Photo credit: UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI’I.
NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii
This photo shows the view from inside the dome of NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility during a night of observing. The 3.2-meter (10.5-foot) telescope atop Hawaii’s Mauna Kea will be used to measure the infrared spectrum of asteroid 2001 FO32. Photo Credit: UH/IfA

Follow up observations have suggested that 2001 FO32 is estimated to be about 1 km in diameter and between 440 to 680 meters wide. During its approach next weekend, 2001 FO32 will pass by at about 124,000 kph (77,000 mph) – faster than the speed at which most asteroids encounter Earth. The reason for the asteroid’s unusually speedy close approach is its highly inclined and elongated (or eccentric) orbit around the Sun (see photo at top of post).

The asteroids close encounter with our planet will present a valuable scientific opportunity for astronomers. Observations dating back 20 years revealed that about 15% of near-Earth asteroids comparable in size to 2001 FO32 have a small moon, said Lance Benner, principal scientist at JPL. Currently little is known about this object, so the very close encounter provides an outstanding opportunity to learn a great deal about this asteroid. The March 21 encounter will provide an opportunity for astronomers to get a more precise understanding of the asteroid’s size and albedo (i.e. how bright, or reflective, its surface is), and a rough idea of its composition.

After its brief visit, 2001 FO32 will continue its lonely voyage, not coming this close to Earth again until 2052, when it will pass by at about seven lunar distances, 2.8 million kilometers or 1.75 million miles.

Date posted: March 13, 2021.

Featured image at top of post: A diagram depicting the elongated and inclined orbit of 2001 FO32 as it travels around the Sun (white ellipse). Because of this orbit, when the asteroid makes its close approach to Earth on March 21, 2021, it will be traveling at an unusually fast speed of 124,000 kph (77,000 mph). Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.


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Total Solar eclipse on August 21: One of Nature’s most awe inspiring sights; watch ScienceCast and follow live coverage

On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America will be treated to an eclipse of the sun. Anyone within the path of totality can see one of nature’s most awe inspiring sights – a total solar eclipse. This path, where the moon will completely cover the sun and the sun’s tenuous atmosphere – the corona – can be seen, will stretch from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. Observers outside this path will still see a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun’s disk. NASA will cover the eclipse live from coast to coast, beginning at noon EDT.



Islamic astronomy became the western world’s powerhouse of scientific research during the 9th and 10th centuries AD, while the Dark Ages engulfed much of the rest of the western world. The works by Ptolemy, Plato, and Aristotle were translated, amplified upon and spread throughout the Muslim world. Al-Khwarazmi developed the first tables trigonometric functions (ca 825 AD) which remained the standard reference well into the modern era. Al-Khwarazmi was known to the west as “Algorizm” and this is, in fact, the origin of the term ‘algorithm’. Al-Khwarazmi’s calculations were good to five places, allowing for unprecedented precision in astronomy and other sciences. At Antioch, Muhammad al-Batani (ca 850 AD) began with Ptolemy’s works and recalculated the precession of the equinoxes, and produced new, more precise astronomical tables. Following a steady series of advances in Islamic trigonometry, observations by Ibn Yunus of lunar and solar eclipses were recorded in Cairo ca 1000 AD. Ibn Yunus is regarded as one of the greatest observational astronomers of his time. The pace of Islamic science and scholarship eventually slowed down in the 11th and 12th centuries. Many great books and great ideas of the Islamic Age lay fallow for hundreds of years until they were finally translated into Latin and fueled the European revolution in thinking and the birth of science as we know it today. [1]


The Fatimid astronomer Ibn Yunus (950-1009), was one of the greatest astronomers of medieval Islam and the most important astronomer of medieval Egypt. He recorded both the lunar and solar eclipses in Cairo.  As a young man he witnessed the Fatimid conquest of Egypt and the founding of the new city of Cairo in 969. In the period up to the reign of 15th Ismaili Imam and 5th Fatimid Caliph, Mawlana al‐ʿAzīz (975–996), he made astronomical observations that were renewed by Mawlana al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, who succeeded Imam al‐ʿAzīz in 996 at the age of 11. Ibn Yunus wrote a major astronomical handbook called Al-Zij al-Hakimi al-kabir (The Great Hakimi astronomical table) which he dedicated to Imam al-Hakim. Although Ibn Yunus’ handbook was widely used in Islam, and his timekeeping tables survived in use in Cairo into the 19th century, his work only became known in the West less than 200 years ago. [2]

Yunus expressed the solutions in his Zij without mathematical symbols, but Delambre noted in his 1819 translation of the Hakemite tables that two of Ibn Yunus’ methods for determining the time from solar or stellar altitude were equivalent to the trigonometric identity 2cos(a)cos(b) = cos(a+b) +cos(a-b) identified in Johannes Werner’s 16th-century manuscript on conic sections. Now recognized as one of Werner’s formulas, it was essential for the development of prosthaphaeresis and logarithms decades later. [3]

Date posted: August 19, 2017.


Islamic astronomy and Ibn Yunus sections compiled from the following sources:

[1]. https://science.ksc.nasa.gov/
[2]. Ibn Yunus – McGill University
[3]. Ibn Yunus – Wikipedia

Did Mawlana Hazar Imam Mention the Planet Venus At Any Time?


Magellan spacecraft radar data enabled scientists to penetrate Venus' thick clouds and create simulated views of the surface. Venus is a dim world of intense heat and volcanic activity.  Similar in structure and size to Earth, Venus' thick, toxic atmosphere traps heat in a runaway 'greenhouse effect.' The scorched world has temperatures hot enough to melt lead. Glimpses below the clouds reveal volcanoes and deformed mountains. Venus spins slowly in the opposite direction of most planets. However, NASA scientists imagine sending astronauts to study Venus by floating them above the planet where the atmosphere is similar to that of Earth's. Credit for image and caption (NASA).

Magellan spacecraft radar data enabled scientists to penetrate Venus’ thick clouds and create simulated views of the surface. Venus is a dim world of intense heat and volcanic activity. Similar in structure and size to Earth, Venus’ thick, toxic atmosphere traps heat in a runaway ‘greenhouse effect.’ The scorched world has temperatures hot enough to melt lead. Glimpses below the clouds reveal volcanoes and deformed mountains. Venus spins slowly in the opposite direction of most planets. However, NASA scientists imagine sending astronauts to study Venus by floating them above the planet where the atmosphere is similar to that of Earth’s. Credit for image and caption (NASA).

By Abdulmalik J. Merchant 

As a young boy with a rudimentary understanding about the planets in our solar system, I was always interested in high-flying objects and space. I often wondered why Mawlana Hazar Imam would have made a reference to Venus during his address in Dar-es-Salaam in 1959, as in the following quote:

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: John Macdonald.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: John Macdonald.

“During your lifetime, you and probably more your children are going to face a revolution which will be somewhat like the Industrial Revolution in Britain, but it will be of a far greater consequence. For those in astronomy, geology, mechanics, radio, television, printing, this is such a thorough revolution that if you want to be able to comprehend it and yet to be able to keep for your children the values which you have in life, you have to have a source for these values which your children can live to. When you think that you will be able to leave this world, and spend the weekend on the moon or Venus or something like that, this is a fact which may be very far from you today, but I want you to understand this is not a thought which will be far from your children” — Mawlana Hazar Imam [1]

A reference to Mars might not have intrigued me, as it has always been the most-talked of all the planets that we earthlings might one day visit, but Venus, I said to myself, seemed to be out-of-place at 500 degrees Celcius, where its scorching heat can melt lead!

However, during the past week, media around the world — including the BBC, CNN and CBC — have carried a story about NASA’s possible future venture into Venus with significant importance. The following excerpt from Sputniknews is one of many reports on the subject, which was first released by the renowned professional scientific organization IEEE [2]:

“Much of the recent focus on interplanetary travel has been on manned missions to Mars. But Venus is much closer — and the upper atmosphere of that planet is remarkably like Earth’s. That’s why NASA scientists are proposing a mission to study our next-door neighbor in giant airships.”

Sputniknews then lightly adds:

“Are you looking to get out-of-town after the holiday season?…If you’re looking to really escape, you might want to consider a trip to Venus. At a mere 38 million kilometers (24 million miles), it’s the closest planet to Earth. But it’s not exactly a vacation destination. With an average temperature of about 860 degrees, you’d burn to a crisp before you had a chance to get your tan on. Still, if you’re really convinced Venus is the place to be, NASA has you covered.” [3]

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, our beloved 48th Imam, had once said that when Imams open their mouths to speak, heaps of pearls (moti na dagla) flow. The Imam’s words often carry pointers to what might follow later. As my beloved father often told me, the Imam of the Time can see over a high wall — a distance away that we can never see.

On reading the story about Venus, I thought I might share with readers of this blog some of the images that NASA has put out to show how they intend to build a colony above Venus, which offers an earth-like environment and where one day, perhaps, our great-grandchildren may wander.

For me, at least, the reference to the moon and Venus by Mawlana Hazar Imam, is an affirmation of the Imam’s broader insight and vision, that his knowledge is all-encompassing, and that if we, as his murids, hold strong to the Rope of Imamat we shall always remain on Sirat -al-Mustaqeem (the straight path) regardless of the age and time we live in — the atomic age, the space age or something even beyond that.

With this thought, I wish all contributors, readers and subscribers of Simerg as well as its sister blog, Simergphotos, a Blessed and Happy New Year!


Phase 1: Robotic exploration. Photo: NASA.

Phase 1: Robotic exploration. Photo: NASA Langley Research Center

Date posted: December 28, 2014.


  1. Precious Gems, Volume 1, Published by His Highness Prince Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismailia Association for Canada, pp 17-18.
  2. http://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/space-flight/nasa-study-proposes-airships-cloud-cities-for-venus-exploration (IEEE)
  3. http://us.sputniknews.com/us/20141225/1013381394.html

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