Asteroid Three Times Bigger Than Big Ben To Zoom Past Earth In A ‘Close Approach’

by : Julia Banim on : 20 Nov 2021 17:04
Asteroid Three Times Bigger Than Big Ben To Zoom Past Earth In A 'Close Approach'Alamy

An asteroid three times the size of Big Ben is set to zoom by Planet Earth this weekend in what NASA has described as a ‘close approach’.

Named 3361 Orpheus, this 984-foot wide Apollo-class asteroid will zip past our home planet on Sunday, November 21, travelling at approximate speeds of 18,000 miles per hour.


Being close enough to make it onto NASA’s ‘Close Approach’ list, the space agency will be keeping track as it whizzes by.

asteroid (Alamy)Alamy

This asteroid is listed as such because NASA class ‘Near-Earth Objects’ (NEO) as objects, such as asteroids or comets, which come within 120 million miles of Earth, having been ‘nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood’.

Thankfully, it doesn’t look as though we need to dig our end of the world bunkers just yet, with 3361 Orpheus set to pass by at a distance of around 3.5 million miles. Any space rock bigger than 100m that comes within 4.65 million miles of Earth is classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA).


This particular asteroid was first discovered by researchers at the National Astronomical Observatory in Chile, some 39 years ago on April 24 1982.

With a notably lengthier orbiting time than Earth, 3361 Orpheus circles the sun every 486 days, with its orbital path encompassing Mars, Earth and Venus.

asteroid (Alamy)Alamy

At any given time, scientists are keeping an eye on thousands of NEOs, continually checking whether any are on a collision course with Earth, an outcome which could prove catastrophic for mankind.


It’s expected that 3361 Orpheus should pass by Earth at around 7.00pm Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on November 21.

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Science, Asteroid, NASA, Now, Space


  1. NASA

    Small-Body Database Lookup