On Dec. 11 (this Saturday), a "potentially hazardous" asteroid the size of the Eiffel Tower will enter Earth's orbital path, according to NASA.
The 1,082-foot space rock, named 4660 Nereus, will come within 2.5 million miles from Earth on Saturday. NASA considers any space object a "near-Earth object" within 120 million miles. Any object that is within 4.65 million miles is considered to be "potentially hazardous." Any deviation from Nereus' projected path could put it on a collision course with Earth.
The egg-shaped asteroid was first discovered in 1982. Nereus' 1.82-year orbit around the sun brings it closer to Earth every decade. NASA and the Japanese space agency (JAXA) have considered "punching" it off course with a spacecraft but have abandoned the idea.
NASA recently launched a proactive planetary defense mission with the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft. Between Sept. 26 and Oct. 1, 2022, NASA will slam the DART into another asteroid called Dimorphos to see if it could alter the space rock's course.
If the DART test goes well next year, NASA could use the kinetic force of a spacecraft to deflect potentially hazardous near-Earth objects. It won't be as exciting as the 1998 sci-fi thriller "Armageddon," starring Bruce Willis, who landed a spacecraft on an asteroid headed to Earth and detonated a nuclear bomb, saving all of humanity. But it appears NASA will have tools in the not too distant future that could save humanity in the event of a potentially hazardous asteroid.