Whilst the people of the world are distracted by the copious number Black Friday sales, a potentially lethal threat is looming over the Earth – a threat so deadly that could change life as we know it forever.
This may sound like the premise of the latest superhero movie, however, unlike Henry Cavill’s moustache in Justice League, this is a very real threat. So stop scrolling the net for a bargain and listen up! The three-mile-wide space mass, which NASA have previously described as “potentially hazardous”, will pass “quite close” to Earth on December 17, according to Russian astronomers. The enormous asteroid will pass 6.4 million miles from the Earth’s surface – which, in space terms, is alarmingly close. What’s more is that it’s half the size of the asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs. The asteroid – chillingly named Phaethon after the Greek God who nearly destroyed Earth – was first discovered in 1983. Since then, it has been closely monitored due to its unusual orbit which sees it pass closer to the Sun than any other named asteroid. Its odd orbit resembles that of a comet rather than an asteroid, and this is why it has been referred to as a “rock comet”. NASA have been intensely monitoring the asteroid and have made several peculiar observations in the process. In 2010, Phaethon was observed ejecting dust. This was thought to be the result of the Sun’s extreme heat causing the rocky mass to dry out. Phaethon is responsible for the Geminids meteor shower which occurs every December. The bright shower, which is observed in various locations across the globe – from the Iranian desert to San Francisco – has been intensifying every year. However, this December, we could see something much more sinister than a meteor shower plunge towards the Earth. Phaethon has passed the Earth before at a distance of 11 million miles, almost double the distance that it is expected to pass this year. However, the distance is lessening ever year, and the asteroid is expected to pass a mere one million miles away from Earth on December 14, 2093. “Apparently, this asteroid was once a much bigger object,” said Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University in a statement. “But its many approaches to the Sun have caused it to crumble into smaller pieces which eventually formed this meteor shower.” “The asteroid’s extremely elongated orbit, thanks to which it sometimes gets to the Sun closer than Mercury and it sometimes moves away farther than Mars, is another argument in favor of this theory,” they explained. Whilst this may all sound rather terrifying, NASA have maintained that there is no need to be alarmed. In fact, the have even recommended that you continue with your Christmas shopping (there is no escaping it, sorry folks!). But they’ve also made a point of emphasising how rare this whole thing is… To highlight how rare it is for a dangerous asteroid to come into contact with Earth, NASA said that a space rock about the size of a car hits the Earth’s atmosphere at least once a year. However, it is often all burnt up and exhausted by the time it reaches us. Phew! But, as you can imagine, you could fit a lot of cars into a three-mile-wide parking lot. So it looks like we will live to see another year, even if 2017’s been a particularly turbulent year for the end of the world predictions. Who could forget when “experts” predicted that the world was going to end after the solar eclipse in August?! It is unclear if we ever will have a genuine warning about when the world will end. However, it is said that Da Vinci has hidden a clue as to when we will all perish in his painting of The Last Supper. This below video explains the (bonkers) theory: