A huge, 3-mile-wide “potentially hazardous asteroid” hurtling towards Earth and is slated to zoom past the planet tomorrow, but scientists say that there is no need to worry.
Known as 3200 Phaethon, the space rock orbits the Sun, and is expected to be the closest to Earth since 1974, 6.4 million miles away, according to a statement from NASA.
There is no chance that the asteroid will hit Earth, and will not come this close again until 2093. Despite that, it is classified as a “Potentially Hazardous Asteroid” by the Minor Planet Center, NASA added in the statement.
NASA said that the asteroid is “potentially detectable at Goldstone [NASA communications complex] for about three weeks and tracks are scheduled in the ten days between Dec. 11-21.” An agency of the government said that it will also remain visible on the Arecibo observatory, located in Puerto Rico, between Dec. 15 Dec. 19.
NASA JUST SHOWED OFF HOW IT WOULD HELP SAVE THE PLANET FROM ‘POTENTIALLY LIFE-THREATENING ASTEROIDS’
3200 Phaethon is thought to be the cause of the annual Geminid meteor shower, which this year reached its peak last Thursday.
Astronomers almost unanimously agree that there is no asteroid, especially those of the near-Earth variety, will have on our planet in our lives. However, if one of this size would hit us, this can lead to some serious damage.
The Boston University astronomy professor Michael Mendillo told Time that 3200 Phaethon “would this type of object would lead to a catastrophic collision, there must be one,” adding that it is highly unlikely.
Scientists have said that they “cannot exclude” a potential collision with an asteroid 99942 Apophis, but that is not the building to come very close to Earth until 2029.
This is not the first time in recent history, an asteroid of this size whizzes past the Earth.
In August, a 2.7-meter-wide asteroid named Florence passed by the Earth at a safe distance of 4.4 million kilometers, about 18 times the distance between Earth and the moon.
In October, 2012 TC4, a space rock estimated to be between 50 and 100 yards past it safely past the Earth by 26,000 km and was used for the testing of the Earth and the international warning network.
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Plans to save mankind
If an asteroid ever threatens the Earth, NASA has a plan to fight against “potentially life threatening” asteroids.
In June, the agency unveiled a video using 3-D modeling techniques and a of the supercomputers in an attempt to simulations on a variety of asteroid impact scenarios. This enables emergency responders and other agencies to identify threats and make better decisions should an event occur in the future.
The work is done by experts on the Asteroid threat Assessment Project of the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California. The efforts are in collaboration with NASA’s Planetary Defense coordination office.
The research is shared with a number of other parties, including the university of scientists, national laboratories of the research and the various government agencies.
The work follows an asteroid collision in 2013 in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. The explosion of the meteorite that injured more than 1,200 people and damaged building 58 km away.
Separately, in 2016, NASA opened a new office to track asteroids and comets that come too close to the Earth, known as the Planetary Defense coordination office (PDCO).
The PDCO will formalize the agency’s existing programs for detecting and tracking of Near-Earth Objects, known as NEOs.
NASA has been studying NEOs since the 1970s. According to the PDCO, NASA-funded research projects have found that more than 95 percent of the known catalog of more than 15,000 NEOs.
Fox News’ James Rogers contributed to this report. Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia