A gigantic “potentially dangerous” space rock larger than the Eiffel Tower will pass Earth this week, according to NASA.
The egg-shaped asteroid, named 4660 Nereus, is 330 meters (1,082 feet) long and will enter Earth’s orbit traveling at 23,700 km / h (14,700 mph) on Saturday, December 11. The asteroid is expected to skim Earth at some distance without impact, but it will still be closer to us than it has been in 20 years.
Nereus, named after the Greek god of the sea, son of Gaia, the personification of Earth, will be approximately 2.4 million miles away (3.86 million km), about 10 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon. This may seem like a huge gap, but by cosmic standards, it’s actually a stone’s throw away.
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NASA marks any space object that approaches 120 million miles (193 million kilometers) from Earth as a “near-Earth object” and any object that moves rapidly within 4.65 million miles (7, 5 million kilometers) as “potentially dangerous”. Once marked, astronomers closely monitor the objects, looking for any deviation from their predicted trajectory that could put them on a collision course with Earth.
First discovered in 1982, Nereus’ 1.82-year orbit of the sun brings it closer to Earth almost every 10 years. Because Nereus visits our region of the solar system so frequently, NASA and the Japanese space agency JAXA once considered collecting a sample using JAXA’s Hayabusa spacecraft, but the agencies ultimately settled on a different asteroid (25143 Itokawa). instead.
NASA projects that Nereus will make its next approaches to Earth on March 2, 2031 and November 2050. An even closer and tantalizingly close visit is forecast on February 14, 2060, when Nereus can reach approximately 0.74 million. miles (1.2 million km) from Earth. This will place the mineral-rich space rock a tempting distance of three moons from our planet.
That’s because beyond being a target for a possible robotic spacecraft sent by NASA, Nereus is also a tantalizing prize for possible space mining. Asterank, a database that monitors more than 600,000 asteroids, estimates that the asteroid has nickel, iron and cobalt deposits collectively worth $ 4.71 billion.
If we ever detect an asteroid heading straight for us, space agencies are working on a solution. On November 23, NASA launched a spacecraft as part of its double asteroid redirection test mission to redirect an asteroid by deflecting it from its course, Live Science previously reported. China is also in the early stages of planning an asteroid strike mission; propose that by crashing 23 of their Long March 5 rockets into the asteroid Bennu, they could deflect it from a potentially catastrophic impact with Earth, Live Science previously reported.
Originally posted on Live Science.
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