'Dangerous' Asteroid Will Skim Earth Tomorrow

Friday, 15 December 2017 - 10:16AM
Astronomy
Space
Solar System
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Friday, 15 December 2017 - 10:16AM
'Dangerous' Asteroid Will Skim Earth Tomorrow
Image credit: Pixabay
If receiving the exact date of humanity's ultimate destruction by asteroid wasn't unnerving enough, the Earth will have a brush with death tomorrow when the asteroid 3200 Phaethon swings by the planet.

Phaethon is about half the size of Chicxulub, the asteroid credited with wiping out the dinosaurs, and last passed by the Earth in 1974.

According to NASA, Phaethon is the third-largest near-Earth asteroid classified as "potentially dangerous."

It's about 5 kilometers (roughly 3 miles) in size, and will come within 6.4 million miles of the Earth tomorrow.

That may seem like a safe margin, but you have to remember this is space we're talking about—the minimum distance between the Earth and Mars, for example, is about 34 million miles. 

Phaethon passes very close to the Sun each time it loops around the solar system, which is the reason for its name—in Greek mythology, Phaethon was the human sun of Helios (or Apollo) who tried to prove his parentage by driving Helios' chariot, which pulled the sun.

In some frightening synchronicity, the story of Phaethon ends with the boy losing control and flying too close to the Earth, almost burning the world to ash.

A meteorite with a diameter of about a mile could send enough rock and dust into the stratosphere to block out the sun start an age of global cooling (not to mention the deaths caused by the impact), while a Chicxulub-type impact would be the most devastating disaster in human history, reports Popular Science.

When it comes to a straight-up apocalypse, however, it would probably take an asteroid about 60 miles across to incinerate humanity.

Though Phaethon probably won't be doing any damage tomorrow, the danger isn't over: Phaethon will pass even closer to the Earth in 2093—about 1.8 million miles—and keep doing so every few decades.

Let's hope NASA's asteroid deflection plans stay on point for the next couple centuries.
Science
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Astronomy
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'Dangerous' Asteroid Will Skim Earth Tomorrow
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