‘Potentially dangerous’ asteroid heading into Earth’s orbit next week

The incoming asteroid, called Nereus, is as big as the Eiffel Tower and it’s going to pass by the Earth on 11 December 2021.

Asteroid charging towards Earth
Asteroid charging towards Earth

‘Potentially dangerous’ is how NASA has officially classified asteroid 4660 Nereus and it’s going to be within 3.9 million kilometres of Earth next week!

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No real threat

Naturally, there is no real danger of impact with the Earth—otherwise NASA would surely be in a frenzy. But astronomers from the US space agency are keeping a very very close eye on the space object as it is the largest and fastest space rock to approach Earth in 2021.

While the distance of nearly 4 million kilometres may seem expansive to our tiny human eyes, on an astronomical scale it is actually cutting it quite close—which is why it is considered ‘potentially dangerous’ (PHO). Objects are only classified as PHO when the distance between its orbit and that of the Earth is less than 0.05 astronomical units (less than 149 million kilometres).

Fast moving asteroid

To put into perspective the speed at which this space rock is moving at, it is around 11 times faster than an F-16 aircraft.

It was first discovered in 1982 by the astronomer Eleonor Francis Helin from the Palomar Astronomical Observatory in America and researchers know it as ‘1982 DB.’

Its diameter is 330 metres, hence the comparison to the Eiffel Tower, and its rotation period is 15.1 hours. By 2060, NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) predicts that it will move closer to Earth and will be only 1.2 million kilometres away.

Asteroid the size of the Eiffel Tower heads towards earth next month Asteroid the size of the Eiffel Tower heads towards earth next month