A huge asteroid three miles wide is headed for the Earth, and it could zoom close by around Christmas, experts say.
A huge asteroid is on its way toward Earth and is expected to skim our planet on Dec. 16. The asteroid, named 3200 Phaethon and stretching three miles wide, has been classified as “potentially hazardous by an organization known as the Minor Planet Center.
Fortunately, it will miss us, passing within 6.5 million miles of Earth at its closest. That’s pretty close, but still about 27 times the distance that the moon orbits from us, so we’re in no danger of a strike. Scientists will use it as a chance to create a 3D model of the asteroid.
Scientists first spotted 3200 Phaethon back in December of 2007, and they believe it came from the Geminid meteor shower, which will peak on Dec. 13. Such an asteroid would have devastating effects on the Earth were it to hit. By comparison, the Tunguska event of 1908 in Russia, which flattened 2,000 square kilometers of forest, was caused by a meteor between 200 to 620 feet in diameter, a fraction of the size of this asteroid.
“Phaethon has an unusually high eccentricity of 0.890 and a perihelion of 0.140 authat is among the smallest known in the near-Earth asteroid population,” reads a NASA statement. “Due to the close perihelion,Phaethon is named for the Greek mythological son of Helios (the Sun god). In Greek mythology, Phaethon drove his father’s chariot for one day, lost control of its horses, and nearly set the Earth on fire.”