NASA warns that massive asteroid is headed towards Earth – but there’s no need to panic

The rock, named 4660 Nereus. will pass earth on 11 December

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Sunday 07 November 2021 17:15
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NASA to deflect asteroid in test of 'planetary defence'

An asteroid the size of the Eiffel Tower is heading for Earth in December, according to NASA.

But there is no need to panic, as the US space agency’s asteroid tracker says that “potentially hazardous” rock will only pass within 2.4m miles of Earth on 11 December.

Although the 330m wide asteroid, which is named “4660 Nereus”, is unlikely to pose any threat, it is predicted to make 12 more close passes in the coming decades.

The closest approach the egg-shaped asteroid will make is predicted to be 14 February, 2060, when it will be just under 745,645 miles away.

For comparison, the distance between the Earth and the Moon is around 239,000 miles.

The asteroid was first discovered by scientists in 1982, and because of its close orbit to Earth it is potentially accessible by spacecraft.

There are not currently any planned expeditions to explore the asteroid but it has been considered.

NASA’s Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous-Shoemaker (NEAR) robotic mission and the Japanese Hayabusa mission both considered Nereus as targets, before choosing other options.

Three countries have previously landed spacecraft on asteroids and they are considered targets for future mining operations.

Last month the United Arab Emirates announced plans for missions to explore asteroids, and would become the first Arab country to do so.

Their missions is scheduled to start in 2028 and will include exploration of seven asteroids as well as Venus, culminating with a 2033 asteroid landing.

It is not unusual for large asteroids to pass close to Earth.

In March a rock the size of the Golden Gate Bridge came within 1.25m miles of Earth.

NASA classifies asteroids as “potentially hazardous” when they come within 4.65m miles of Earth and are larger than 500ft in diameter.

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