The asteroid that is longer than the Eiffel Tower and has a large amount of metal will pass by Earth at a speed of 23,700 km / h on December 11.
A potentially dangerous asteroid the size of the Eiffel Tower will pass by Earth next week, NASA announced. The asteroid is called 4660 Nereus, named after the Greek sea god Nereus, son of Gaia – the embodiment of Earth. It is egg-shaped and about 330 meters long, and is expected to enter Earth’s orbit at a speed of 23,700 km/h on December 11.
Scientists say that 4660 Nereus will just graze the blue planet without causing a collision. However, this is still the closest approach of the asteroid in 20 years. It will arrive about 3.86 million kilometers from Earth, 10 times the distance between Earth and the Moon. This number sounds large, but by cosmic standards it is insignificant.
NASA predicts 4660 Nereus will make its next close approach in March 2031 and November 2050. Notably, this asteroid will arrive just 1.2 million km from Earth in February 2060, 3 times the distance between Earth and the Moon.
NASA classifies all incoming objects within 193 million kilometers as “near-Earth objects,” and fast-moving objects within 7.5 million kilometers as “potentially hazardous.” Once classified, astronomers will monitor them carefully to see if there are any deviations from the predicted orbits that lead to a potential collision.
4660 Nereus was first discovered in 1982. Its 1.82-year orbit around the Sun causes the asteroid to pass close to Earth about every 10 years. With such frequent visits, NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) considered collecting samples from there with the Hayabusa spacecraft. However, the asteroid that was ultimately selected was 25143 Itokawa.
4660 Nereus is also a potential target for future space mining. Asterrank, a database that tracks more than 600,000 asteroids, estimates the nickel, iron and cobalt reserves of 4660 Nereus to be worth $4.71 billion.
Space agencies around the world are looking for solutions if they detect an asteroid heading towards Earth in the future. On November 23, NASA launched a spacecraft under the Dual Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) to deflect an asteroid by crashing into it. China is also planning a similar mission. Specifically, Chinese scientists proposed firing 23 Long March 5 rockets at asteroid Bennu to divert it, avoiding the risk of a strong collision with Earth.