An Asteroid Is Going To Fly Past Earth On December 16

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Greetings Space Cadets, An asteroid is about to make a pretty close approach to Earth – but don’t worry, there’s essentially no chance it will hit us.

The asteroid is called 3200 Phaethon, named after the Greek mythological son of Helios, the Sun God. The bad news is that, in Greek mythology, Phaethon nearly set Earth on fire and had to be destroyed. Eek.

The good news is that this asteroid probably won’t deal us a repeat performance when it swings past our planet on December 16. But it will provide us with an exciting opportunity to study this rock as it tears through space.

“This will be the best opportunity to date for radar observations of this asteroid and we hope to obtain detailed images,”
said NASA.

“The images should be excellent for obtaining a detailed 3D model.”

Phaethon (the asteroid) is thought to be about 5 kilometre (3 miles) across, making it the third largest near-Earth potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA). It was discovered in 1983 by NASA, with its last close approach coming in 2007.

This time around the asteroid will pass within 10 million kilometre (6.2 million miles) of our planet. That’s kinda close, about 27 times further than the Moon, but nowhere near enough to be a cause for alarm. It is, however, closer than it came in 2007.

“The 2017 apparition is the closest to Earth since the asteroid’s discovery so it may be possible for optical observers to detect new activity,”
said NASA.

Interestingly, Phaethon is thought to be responsible for the annual Geminids meteor shower on December 13 and 14, due to similarities between its orbit and the meteors.

But meteor storms are usually caused by comets, which have tails of debris trailing behind them that burn up in our atmosphere. Asteroids are not supposed to have these, so it’s possible Phaethon is either breaking apart, or it’s not an asteroid at all – and is, in fact, a dead comet.

So this close pass to Earth is going to be pretty exciting. There are a number of closer approaches in the next few centuries though (the next is 2050), with the closest coming on December 14, 2093. Phaethon will pass within 3 million kilometre (1.9 million miles) of our planet then. We should be fine, though.


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Dr. Ravenholm

Dr. Ravenholm

Greetings, I’m DR Yuill-Kirkwood (Dr Ravenholm) and welcome to my site I keep a small flock of Chickens and you can follow their stories in Tales From The Coop. I love movies, gaming on my XBOX and reading. Some of my favourites being Star Trek, Lord Of The Rings, Serenity, Firefly (Jewel Staite being the most beautiful girl in the verse), Mass Effect, Halo, Skyrim, and Minecraft, I could go on. You can also find me meeting all the celebrities at Comic-Con. In addition to my business my website and blog showcase my photography, YouTube videos, and expeditions & adventures. I hope you enjoy your visit to and we look forward to talking to you so please comment and share with your friends and drop by and see us on all your favourite social media websites.

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