A gigantic asteroid is all set for a close flyby towards Earth, according to the scientists. The huge asteroid named 3200 Phaethon will zoom past Erath this Saturday and will be closest to the Earth since December 16, 1974. At its closest approach, the asteroid will be around 6.4 miles away from our Earth- nearly 27 times the distance between the Earth and the moon.
Way back in 1974, during its nearest approach towards Erath, it was around 5 million miles away from our planet. As per NASA, the 3200 Phaethon, which orbits the Sun, is almost 3-miles (five kilometres) wide. NASA also said that the asteroid is depicted as a “Potentially Hazardous Asteroid” by the Minor Planet Center, but denied any types of threat to our Earth from this gigantic asteroid. NASA also informed that that asteroid would not be approaching so close to Earth until 2013. The asteroid will be visible at Goldstone between 11-21 December and also at the Arecibo Observatory, located in Puerto Rico, between Dec. 15 and Dec. 19.
Giving more information about the close flyby of the giant asteroid, a NASA spokesperson said,
With a diameter of about 5km, Phaethon will approach within 0.069 au of Earth on 2017 December 16 when it will be a strong radar imaging target at Goldstone and Arecibo.hon is the third largest near-Earth asteroid classified as “Potentially Hazardous”.’He further said that this would be the best opportunity for radar observations of this asteroid and they are hopeful of obtaining detailed images of the giant asteroid. ‘The images should be excellent for obtaining a detailed 3D model, he added.
The asteroid will be visible with the help of small telescopes in areas with little light pollution and will be brightest until 21st December, as said by NASA. The 3200 Phaethon was discovered in 1983 and is named after the Greek myth of Phaeton, the son of the sun god Helios, as its orbit brings it closer to the Sun than any other named asteroid. The Phaethon is believed to the source of the Geminid meteor showers that reached its peak last Thursday night. Scientists are confused about whether to call the space rock an asteroid or a comet, as it looks more like an asteroid, but sometimes it displays comet-like activity. Many scientists suggested that it is an inactive comet Nucleus.