Every day it seems that another natural disaster could trigger the apocalypse. Volcanoes Tremors. Hurricanes Sometimes that list includes asteroids. But despite the exaggerated headlines of the usual suspects, there is no need to worry about the latest close approach to asteroids.
(3200) Phaethon is a rock five kilometers in diameter with an oblong orbit that intersects Earth. It is scheduled to make a close approach on December 16. You probably hear more fear screaming about it until then, but it is not a rock that you should worry about during your life.
Scientists discovered for the first time (3200) Phaeton in 1983, according to a NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory data sheet. His eccentric crosses the orbit of our own planet, putting humanity in a rather precarious place. It was clbadified as a "potentially dangerous asteroid" for that reason. But the name is a bit misleading.
"[Potentially Hazardous Asteroid] is not a very good term because it implies that things are going to hit us right away," said Matthew Holman, interim director of the Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union. He told Gizmodo. "It's for long periods of time, basically, this is more a matter of plausibility."
Holman went on to explain that "the orbits of the asteroids are changing in the time scale of hundreds or thousands of years, maybe more, it's really not a statement about urgency, it's a statement of likelihood, it's something that could have a collision trajectory towards the Earth. "
Holman did not speak directly with (3200) Phaeton, but commented that scientists study these things closely. The community tracks and models the orbits of potentially dangerous rocks, as they did with 99942 Apophis, which caused a brief scare about a decade ago. Scientists from agencies designed to worry about these things, like NASA, would tell you if (3200) Phaethon was really a threat.
The rock will pbad a little less than 6,500,000 miles from Earth on December 16, about a fifth of the distance from Earth to Mars at its closest point. Mars is far away, but you could still observe the asteroid with a telescope. The next time it approaches is 2093 when it pbades around 1.85 million miles away, seven times more than the moon. Most likely, you're dead by then.
(3200) Phaethon remains clean and strange. It produces a meteor shower here on Earth called Geminids, but it is usually the comets, not the asteroids, that cause these events. There are some theories about why it could be like that, but it's still a mystery.
Anyway, take a break and enjoy the holiday season. No need to worry about an asteroid.