ASTEROIDS LATEST: Three-mile-wide asteroid heads towards Earth just DAYS before Xmas | Science | News

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Up to three-mile wide, the asteroid, named 3200 Phaethon, is set for a “cosmological close pass of our planet on December 16, just nine days before Christmas.

The asteroid is on a list of “potentially hazardous” space rocks compiled by NASA’s Minor Planet Center.

If an object of that size made a direct impact with Earth, it could destroy an entire continent, or potentially more.

An impact with the ocean would send monstrous tsunamis across the globe.

Fortunately for us, it is expected to pass at a staggering 6.5 million miles away, 27 times the distance of the moon, but that is considered a close pass in cosmological terms.

Named after the Greek demi-god Phaethon who, according to mythology, almost set the Earth on fire, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will use the close pass to study the object to create a detailed 3D model.

The irregularly-shaped rock was first identified in December 2007, and is believed to be the parent body responsible for the Geminid meteor shower, due to peak this year on the night of December 13.

The meteor shower is expected to give a stunning show over ten nights, with up to 100 shooting stars every hour.

The asteroid’s approach next month will be the closest to Earth since 1974.

It will not come this near again until 2093.

NASA says 3200 Phaethon will be visible through small telescopes for experienced skywatchers at sites with dark skies.

It is even potentially detectable for up to three weeks, but should be at its brightest between December 11 and 21.

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