Asteroid Nereus passes Earth on the 11th

There have been stories going around of NASA warning that a giant asteroid, bigger than the Eiffel Tower, will break into Earth’s orbit on the 11th of December and skim Earth.

This huge 1082 foot (330 metre) space rock, which is as big as a football field, is heading our way and should skim past Earth on December 11, whizzing past us at about 14,700 miles per hour (23,657 km per hour).

The object in question, Asteroid 4660 Nereus is about 0.3km in diameter (About the size of a football field) and is in the family of Apollo-class asteroids. Its orbital period around The Sun is 664 days.

Although classed as a “Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA)”, there really is no need to panic.
It will pass us relatively safely at a reasonable distance on that day.

The closest that it will come to Earth is within 2.44 million miles (3,934,339 km), just over 10 times the distance of The Moon.

Nereus will pass close to Earth again in 2031 and 2050, but a pass quite as close as this will not occur until 2060.

So as an amateur, will it be possible to catch it as it passes by?
Possibly!

According to my research, Nereus should reach about 12th magnitude at its brightest around this time.
So it should be visible in a moderate telescope and easily captured on images.

So I’m going to have a go at capturing it, if the weather allows, of course.

It will be a faint star-like point moving in front of the more distant background stars, moving through a very familiar part of the sky, which will make it a bit easier to find.
It will pass right across the bowl of The Plough during it’s closest approach.

Path of Nereus from the evening of the 9th to the morning of the 12th of December.
Click on the maps for a closer view.
The asteroid approaches from top-right of the map, below Messier galaxies 81 & 82.
It heads south east, passing just north of Dubhe, right across the bowl of The Plough and just north of Phecda.

Path of Nereus on the evening of the 9th & morning of the 10th of December.
Nereus is just south of Messier Galaxies 81 & 82 at 01:00h UT.

Path of Nereus on the evening of the 10th & morning of the 11th of December.
This should be the day when Nereus is at its brightest at 12th magnitude.
It passes north of NGC3359 between 21:00h and 22:00h UT.
By 05:00h UT it is passing just north of Dubhe the top Pointer Star in The Plough.

Path of Nereus on the evening of the 11th & morning of the 12th of December.
Nereus passes north of NGC3690 just after darkness falls.
South of NGC3795 just before 22:00h UT.
By 05:00h UT it is passing just north of NGC3898.

Nereus passes north of Phecda around midday on the 12th, but of course this will be daytime for us in the UK.

The next evening, Nereus should have faded somewhat, but I have added the next evenings map, for those who may be able to pick up its faint light.

Path of Nereus on the evening of the 11th & morning of the 12th of December.
Nereus passes north of NGC4102 just after darkness falls.
North of NGC4187 around midnight.
By the time dawn starts to break it will be approaching NGC 4381 & NGC4357.

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