It is three-miles long and travels at 45,000 mph: it’s 3200 Phaethon, and it’s passing by Earth! Get to know all the fact about this ‘potentially hazardous’ asteroid.
1. The asteroid coming close to the Earth…sorta. The asteroid dubbed 3200 Phaethon is one of the orbiting bodies inside the Milky Way, and on Dec. 16, it will whiz past the Earth, according to Newsweek. While this is no big deal, as 3200 Phaethon swings by our neck of the solar system every 1.4 years, the rock’s trajectory will have it come 6.2 million miles to our planet. It hasn’t been that close to Earth since 1974, which is why NASA has called it a “potentially hazardous” asteroid.
2. It won’t hit the Earth, but NASA’s still being cautious. The asteroid is going to miss the planet by 6.2 million miles, but 3200 Phaethon’s trajectory will make this huge rock come within only 2 millions miles short of Earth’s orbit. Considering that 3200 Phaethon reportedly travels at 19/km per second (that’s 45,000 miles per hour) this distance is enough to have NASA designate it as a “potentially hazardous asteroid,” according to NBC News. After all, 6.2 million miles isn’t a lot in space terms. The next time 3200 Phaethon comes this close to Earth will be 2093.
3. You can’t see it just by looking up at the night sky. Even if you have really good vision, the asteroid will be too dim to be seen by the naked eye. However, space enthusiasts with a telescope will be able to catch it. The asteroid will be visible for weeks, according to ABC News, but the best time to watch it is 6 PM ET on Dec. 16. It can also be watched on virtualtelescope.eu.
4. It’s half the size of the rock that some think killed the dinosaurs. “This ‘potential’ to make close Earth approaches does not mean a PHA will impact the Earth. It only means there is a possibility for such a threat,” NASA writes on its website. At three-miles long, 3200 Phaethon would definitely ruin your day if it were to strike the earth. It’s about half the size of the asteroid that some experts think caused the extinction event that killed the dinosaurs, so imagine just what it would do if it were to collide with Cleveland? Thankfully, that’s not going to happen.
5. 3200 Phaethon is the parent of he Greminid Meteor Shower. Named after the Greek mythological figure who set the planet on fire when he drove a chariot of fire too close to the planet, 3200 Phaethon is the only known asteroid to have caused a meteor shower. Usually, meteor showers are the result of icy debris on comets vaporizing when they come close to the sun or when they burn up in the earth’s atmosphere.
How to see 3200 Phaethon: https://t.co/UtAa3J5EMr
This is the parent object of tonight's Geminid meteor shower: https://t.co/khb8mWRjK5
Meteors are easy to see, but you can't see 3200 Phaethon with the eye alone. But backyard telescopes can pick it up. pic.twitter.com/t6BycfTfEa
— EarthSky (@earthskyscience) December 14, 2017
However, 3200 Phaethon is an asteroid, not a comet. There’s a distinction. Asteroids are made up of metals and rocky material, while comets are made up of ice, dust and rocky materials, according to NASA. The Greminid shower has been attributed to 3200 Phaethon, which has some at NASA wondering if Phaethon is an asteroid, a dead comet, or something in between.
Are you going to try and watch 3200 Phaethon, HollywoodLifers?