Three-Mile Wide Asteroid 3200 Phaethon To Fly 'Quite Close' To Earth Before Christmas

OK, don't panic, guys, but a 3-mile (5km) wide 'potentially hazardous' asteroid is set to brush past Earth in the next few weeks.

And those aren't my words, nope, NASA has previously described the event as a "potentially hazardous asteroid whose path misses Earth's orbit by only two million miles." That might sound far, but in space-terms, not so much.

It's believed it will pass closer to the sun than any other named asteroid.

Credit: NASA

The asteroid, which is called 3200 Phaethon, will pass Earth before Christmas on 17 December during a meteor shower, according to Russian astronomers.

Oh, and in case you're wondering where the name came from, the asteroid has been named after a Greek god who almost wiped out life on Earth, according to legend. So that's reassuring.

Phaethon has left scientist scratching their heads, as it appears to have properties of both an asteroid and a comet, with astronomers being able to spot a comet-like 'tail' when it was previously spotted close to Earth.

In a statement, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University said: "Apparently, this asteroid was once a much bigger object.


"But its many approaches to the sun have caused it to crumble into smaller pieces which eventually formed this meteor shower.

"If so, the asteroid itself could be the residue of a comet nucleus.

"The asteroid's extremely elongated orbit, thanks to which it sometimes gets to the Sun closer than Mercury and it sometimes moves away farther than Mars, is another argument in favour of this theory."

NASA says Phaethon is about half the size of the asteroid which killed off the dinosaurs.

The space agency also said that if you're interested in space, then now is the perfect time to whip out your 'backyard telescope' and take a look.

NASA is also quick to point out that dangerous asteroids are very rare, so try not to worry too much. According to the organisation, a space rock about the size of a car hits the Earth's atmosphere once a year, but is always quickly burnt up before it reaches us - like in The Simpsons. So that's a relief.

Asteroid 3200 Phaethon has been named after the son of the Greek sun god Helios. The story told in ancient myths tell of how Phaethon was challenged to prove that he was related to god Helios who apparently pulled the sun across the sky.

To try and prove his origin, Phaethon is said to have had a go at driving his dad's chariot. He lost control of the horses who then took off across the sky and dragged the hot sun with them

Source: NASA

Featured Image Credit: NASA/B. E. Schmidt and S. C. Radcliffe of UCLA.

Claire Reid

Claire Reid is a journalist at LADbible. Claire graduated from Liverpool John Moores University with a BA in journalism. She’s previously worked at Trinity Mirror. Since joining LADbible, Claire has worked on pieces for the UOKM8? mental health campaign, the Yemen crisis, life in the Calais Jungle as well as a profile of a man who is turning himself into a cyborg.

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