Story at a glance
- Asteroid 4660 Nereus was discovered back in 1982 and scientists have been tracking it ever since.
- Nereus is approximately 330 meters wide, roughly the size of the Eiffel Tower.
- It’s expected to come within 2.5 million miles of Earth on Dec. 11, considered very close in cosmic standards.
An asteroid the size of the Eiffel Tower is heading towards Earth this month and it’s considered an especially unique piece of rock by scientists.
The asteroid 4660 Nereus is classified as a “potentially hazardous” piece of rock because of its proximity to Earth. On Dec. 11, NASA expects it to be at its closest point to Earth over a 20-year period. The asteroid was discovered back in 1982.
The 4660 Nereus is a 330-meter asteroid in the shape of an egg and within the next week scientists anticipate it will come within 2.5 million miles from Earth. Despite that sounding like an incredibly far away distance, it’s about ten times farther away than the moon, which is considered close by cosmic standards.
NASA considers a near-Earth object to be an asteroid or comet that comes within approximately 30 million miles of Earth’s orbit.
According to an analysis by Forbes, Nereus has been a proposed target for a space mission multiple times, because of its egg shape, size and orbital path around the sun it makes for an ideal asteroid to visit.
Even back in 2009 researchers considered Nereus, “a strong candidate for a rendezvous mission.”
Asterank, a database that monitors more than 600,000 asteroids, estimates that Nereus’ value is at $4.71 billion, 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.
Asteroid mining is a concept that began to gain popularity in the early 2010s, but now as the commercial space industry has taken off with big players like Blue Origin and SpaceX, it could pick back up again starting with Nereus.
According to Forbes, it would take about a year for a robotic spacecraft to enter orbit around Nereus.
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