A three-mile-wide asteroid just slipped by Earth, but its next pass will really be one for the books


It’s Monday, and since you didn’t die in a fiery apocalyptic hellscape over the weekend that means that the massive space rock named 3200 Phaethon didn’t collide with Earth when it made its closest approach on Saturday evening. Congratulations!

Asteroid strikes are rare – at least on the timeline of human existence — and close calls from potential “planet killer” rocks are rarer still. At a distance of around 6 million miles from our planet, this most recent visit from 3200 Phaethon doesn’t really qualify as a hand-wringer, but it’s peculiar orbit around the Sun will lead it to a much closer encounter with Earth before the end of the century.

The 3200 Phaethon asteroid is remarkable for a couple of reasons, including the fact that at three miles wide it could do some very serious damage if it were to strike our planet, but the thing that astronomers find most odd about the object is the shape of its orbit. The path that gravity has put it on brings it extremely close to the Sun, and it gets closer to our star than any other named asteroid on record. – READ MORE

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