It’s hard to conceptualize how big space is, but a massive asteroid that’s the size of the Eiffel Tower is putting things into perspective. The giant space rock is heading towards Earth, and it has scientists really interested. Here’s what you need to know.
The asteroid 4660 Nereus was first discovered in 1982. According to The Hill, it’s a “potentially hazardous” floating rock in space that has caught the attention of NASA experts because of its close proximity to us on Earth. It’s 1,082 feet (330-meter) long floating rock and it’s shaped like an egg.
Since NASA has had eyes on the asteroid for forty years, there’s a lot of interest in the 4660 Nereus because it is currently the closest it has ever been to Earth in over 20 years. And NASA reports the asteroid will enter Earth’s orbital path on December 11.
Now, “close” to Earth needs to be understood in cosmic terms. Nereus will be approximately 2.4 million miles away, which works out to be roughly 10 times the distance between the Earth and the moon. It’s a difficult number to conceptualize, but according to NASA, 2.4 million miles is well within its definition of a “near-Earth object” — which is when a comet or asteroid comes within approximately 30 million miles or less of Earth’s orbit.
Obviously, the Nereus is a whole lot closer than that – which is why scientists have been keeping an eye on it. But that’s not the only reason it has caught the attention of so many. The Nereus has the potential for being a target for a space mission, and it’s potentially worth a whole lot of money.
“Asterank, a database that monitors more than 600,000 asteroids, estimates that Nereus’ value is at $4.71 billion,” The Hill reports, “making it one of the most cost-effective asteroids to leverage for mineral resources. The asteroid is thought to contain billions worth of nickel, iron, and cobalt.” Cha-ching!
Scientists say the next time we will see the Nereus close to Earth again will be March 2, 2021, NASA projects. The asteroid will get even closer, roughly 0.74 million miles, around Feb. 14, 2060. And as for whether or not it will hit you — it poses no threat to Earth. In the meantime, NASA is working on some cool projects to shoot asteroids out of the sky. If such a thing is ever needed, that is.