Can I see asteroid Nereus today?

World News

A GIGANTIC space rock will skim Earth’s orbit today – and here’s how you'll be able to watch it.

Asteroid 4660 Nereus, labelled as 'potentially hazardous' by NASA, is among the closest known giant asteroids to pass us.

Can I see asteroid Nereus today? 

The asteroid, which is larger than the Shard in London, is expected to pass about 4.6million miles from Earth today.

This will be the nearest asteroid Nereus has come to the Earth since it was first seen almost 40 years ago.

NASA considers fast-moving objects in space that come within 4.65 million miles to be "potentially hazardous", although the rock "will not be a threat to humanity".

Nereus could be visible with clear skies from the UK today and the best time Brits will be able to see it is at around 2.50pm — still a few million miles away.

Will the asteroid hit Earth? 

The 330m-long asteroid will approach the earth at less than half the distance from the earth to the sun, meaning any slight deviation in its orbit could put it on a collision course with our planet.

Dr Frank Marchis, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute and chief scientific officer at Unistellar, said the chance of it hitting Earth is small. 

He added: “Things could go wrong — there is always a possibility — but it’s small. We are monitoring this so people can sleep easy.”

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Although 4660 Nereus appears to pose no threat in 2021, it is set to come much closer to the earth in the future.

The closest is expected to come on Valentine’s Day in 2060 when it could be 745,000 miles away, which is three times further away than the Moon.

What other near-miss asteroids will there be?

According to scientists and astronomers, thousands of meteoroids and asteroids have passed by the Earth since 1989.

NASA is currently tracking the course of several hundreds of asteroids that could potentially be hazardous to human life on Earth, including a killer asteroid named Didymos. 

The rock will be approaching Earth in October 2022 and a spacecraft is being built to hit the asteroid off its course if needed. 

The space agency says there is currently no "significant chance" any asteroid will hit earth in the next century.

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