"Potentially Hazardous" Asteroid 3200 Phaethon Back Again, But Don't Worry


It had previously been expected to reach Earth by Sunday but NASA instead revealed today it will hurtle past at 10pm on Saturday.

The asteroid passes by Earth every 1.4 years and is responsible for the Gemenid meteor shower that peaked earlier this week.

NASA now considers Phaethon a "rock-comet."

NASA said on its website: "This "potential" to make close Earth approaches does not mean a potentially hazardous asteroid will impact the Earth".

NASA said 3200 Phaethon can be seen at its Goldstone communications complex for approximately three weeks, and the agency is scheduling tracks on 10 days between December 11 and 21.

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During a recent pass of another asteroid, Nasa used its global network of observatories to recover, track and characterise asteroid 2012 TC4.

At 5km wide, the asteroid is one of the largest ever discovered in our solar system.

"By monitoring these PHAs and updating their orbits as new observations become available, we can better predict the close-approach statistics and thus their Earth-impact threat", NASA added.

Scientists are hoping the unusually close proximity will allow them to capture images of the object and put together a reliable 3D model.

In a statement, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University said: 'Apparently, this asteroid was once a much bigger object.

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Tonight's flyby marks the closest the asteroid will come to Earth since its discovery and it won't come this close again until 2093.

Conspiracy theorists claim the Earth is due a direct hit with an asteroid. In addition, the asteroid is about half the size of the asteroid that may have wiped out the dinosaurs.

It has an unusual orbit which means it passes closer to the Sun than any other asteroid.

The space rock has been named after the son of the Greek sun god Helios who pulled the sun across the sky.

To prove his power, Phaethon attempted to do it himself but he lost control of the chariot and ended up dragging the hot sun towards Earth.

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Earth was nearly destroyed in the ensuing chaos, which scorched the planet, burned vast amounts of vegetation and created the great deserts of Africa.