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Three-mile-wide 3200 Phaethon asteroid named after a Greek god who almost destroyed Earth will brush ‘quite close’ to our planet next month

5 kilometers (3-mile) wide asteroid called 3200 Phaethon will brush past Earth a few days before Christmas.

The enormous object is named after the son of the Sun-God of Greek Mythology, Patheon, who according to legends nearly destroyed Earth.

It’s going to brush ‘pretty close’ with Earth on December 17, astronomers from Russia have shown.

Experts from the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University in Königsberg, Russia, have released a video that tracks Phaethon’s path.

The asteroid, which Nasa has earlier described as a ‘potentially hazardous object’ (PHO), will pass 10.3m km (6.4 million miles) from Earth – quite close in space terms.

At 5 km (3 miles) wide, the asteroid is approximately half the size of Chicxulub, the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Its uncommon orbit will see it pass closer to the Sun than every other named asteroid.

This asteroid has puzzled Scientists since it has features of both a comet and an asteroid.

In one of its past close encounters with Earth, scientists noticed dust streaming from the space rock that looks like the melting ice tails seen tailing almost all comets.

However, its orbit puts its origins in an area between Mars and Jupiter where asteroids very often originate.

Usually, icy comets come from colder areas of space beyond Neptun.

In an announcement, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University said: ‘Seemingly, this asteroid was formerly a much bigger object.’

‘However, its numerous approaches to the Sun have caused it to break apart into smaller fragments which in the end formed this meteor shower.

‘If that’s the case, the asteroid itself could possibly be the residue of a comet nucleus.

‘The asteroid’s very elongated orbit, thanks to which it occasionally moves to the Sun closer than Mercury and it occasionally moves away from a greater distance than Mars, is just another argument in favor of this concept.’

The asteroid is named after the son of the Greek sun god Helios ‘Phaethon’ because it passes so close to the sun. Legend claims the young demi-god almost destroyed Earth by stealing his father’s (bottom right) chariot (top of image) and scorching Earth with the sun (top left)

As mentioned previously, this asteroid is named after the son of the Sun-God Helios of Greek Mythology, ‘Phaethon’.

Legend asserts the young demi-god was challenged to demonstrate that he was related to Helios, that was believed to pull the sun across the sky.

 

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