Next month, with just a few days before Christmas, a large asteroid is going to come very close to Earth. According to Russian astronomers, the asteroid, named 3200 Phaethon, after the Greek God, will almost graze our planet on December 17. The experts have reportedly been following the space rock’s path about which NASA said that it might pose a possible hazard to the planet. The distance at which it will pass by the Earth will be of just 2 million, which is extremely close in space terms.
According to astronomers, the asteroid is about three miles wide, meaning that it’s about half as big as the one that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. It’s very interesting that 3200 Phaethon has traits that might characterize both a comet and an asteroid. The experts previously noticed a tail of dust behind it, resembling those melting ice tails that comets carry behind them.
An asteroid for Christmas
The astronomers from the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University in Konigsberg have been analyzing the asteroid’s path for quite some time. According to an official statement from them, it seems that this space rock was once much bigger than it is now. However, because it has approached the Sun a few times, it broke up into smaller pieces. Eventually, it turned into this meteor shower. One of those pieces is the asteroid that will soon pass by the Earth.
If their assumptions are true, this might mean that this space rock could even be a residue of the nucleus of a comet. One thing that proves this as being true is its very elongated orbit. This is why it gets so close to the Sun, even closer than Mercury. At the same time, it gets away even farther than Mars is.
The experts named this asteroid after the son the Greek God of the Sun, Helios. His name was Phaethon.
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