An Eiffel Tower-sized asteroid is heading for Earth in December but will cause no harm to life on the planet, scientists say.
The asteroid, named 4660 Nereus, has been labeled a “potentially hazardous asteroid” by NASA, meaning its flight path passes close enough to Earth to warrant monitoring. It’s important to note, however, that the closest Nereus to Earth is about 3.9 million kilometers away, more than ten times farther than the Moon.
Nereus is 330 meters long, making it over 90% of asteroids, and belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids which are known to cross Earth’s path in orbit around the sun. It was discovered in 1982 by American astronomer Eleanor F Helin and orbits the sun every 664 days. There are no plans to make another “closed” pass until March 2, 2031.
The floating mass of rock has been considered for various missions by scientists to study its composition, but none has yet materialized. NASA once offered to send its Robotic Asteroid Shoemaker Rendezvous (RASR) probe and the Japanese space program planned to send its Hayabusa spacecraft, but each time other target sites were chosen.
Last August, the asteroid Bennu threatened Earth more than scientists had anticipated. The odds of the asteroid crashing into Earth have fallen from 1 in 2,700 to 1 in 1,750 over the next century or two. But Davide Farnocchia, a scientist with NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: “We shouldn’t worry too much about it.”