Just Passing Through: Three Mile Wide Asteroid Makes Earth Visit

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Get to know all the fact about this "potentially hazardous" asteroid.

The 3200 Phaethon, a three-mile-wide asteroid, is slated to hurtle past Earth Saturday for the first time in almost 45 years, according to NASA.

The object - known as (3200) Phaethon - is named after the son of the Greek Sun god Helion because its orbit brings it closer to the star than any other named asteroid.

This encounter is the closest by this asteroid since 1974, according to NASA. After all, 6.2 million miles isn't a lot in space terms. Scientists said it won't be this close again until 2093. A livestream of the asteroid's passage is happening on YouTube too, with an embed below. However, space enthusiasts with a telescope will be able to catch it.

"This "potential" to make close Earth approaches does not mean a PHA will impact the Earth", NASA wrote on its Center for Near Earth Object's section for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). The asteroid will be visible for weeks, according to ABC News, but the best time to watch it is 6 PM ET on December 16.

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. It can also be watched on virtualtelescope.eu. At three-miles long, 3200 Phaethon would definitely ruin your day if it were to strike the earth. In addition, the asteroid is about half the size of the asteroid that may have wiped out the dinosaurs. Thankfully, that's not going to happen.

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Here's an image from last night of 3200 Phaethon, the odd rock-comet that's the source of last week's Geminid meteor shower.

"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.

However, 3200 Phaethon is an asteroid, not a comet.

NASA now considers Phaethon a "rock-comet".

Some scientists believe Phaethon might be an extinct comet, the rocky nucleus of a comet where the ices have sublimated away.

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