The 3200 Phaethon, a three-mile-wide asteroid, is slated to hurtle past Earth Saturday for the first time in nearly 45 years, according to NASA. The asteroid orbits the planet every 523 days, often coming within differing ranges from Earth. It was first discovered October 11, 1983. 

The asteroid has been deemed as "potentially hazardous" by NASA due to the close proximity its expected to brush past Earth. 

It's One Of The Third Largest Near-Earth Asteroids

NASA confirmed that the 3200 Phaethon is three miles wide. This would qualify it as the third largest near-Earth asteroid to date. 1999 JM8 is the first largest asteroid to glide past Earth at 7 kilometers, with the 4183 Cuno being the second biggest at 5.6 kilometers.

It Likely Won't Harm The Earth

While the 3200 Phaethon is being considered a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA), the likelihood that it would cause harm is very slim. It is the third largest near-Earth asteroid, but it won't approach the planet close enough to elicit real damage.

The asteroid will be passing by at a safe distance of 6.4 million miles. This is much more than the average distance between the Earth and moon, which orbits us at 240,000 miles.    

"This 'potential' to make close Earth approaches does not mean a PHA will impact the Earth," NASA wrote on its Center for Near Earth Object's section for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). "It only means there is a possibility for such a threat."

"By monitoring these PHAs and updating their orbits as new observations become available, we can better predict the close-approach statistics and thus their Earth-impact threat," NASA added.

It's Safe To View

The asteroid is considered to be safe to view, but it isn't able to be looked at with naked eye alone. Since its too dim, interested individuals may be able to catch a glimpse of it with a telescope, according to NASA's recommendation. It has already been visible for some weeks by looking through a small telescope.

It can also be viewable on live stream by heading to virtualtelescope.eu. 

According to NASA, the asteroid hurtles past Earth only a few times per century. The previous close encounter was in 1974 and the next won’t be until 2093.

It's Likely The Source Of The Geminid Meteor Shower

The 2017 Geminid meteor shower is said to have surfaced because of the 3200 Phaethon, EarthSky reported. The asteroid likely left a cloud of dust and debris behind, which would be able to produce the meteor shower that hit its peak earlier this week. 

Where The Asteroid's Name Comes From

The 3200 Phaethon's name was inspired by the Greek mythological son of Helios, known as Phaethon. Phaethon begged Helios to allow him the opportunity to drive the chariot of the sun. Helios, who is a god, gave in to his son's pleas and gave him permission to drive the chariot. Phaethon's inexperience proved to be problematic as he managed to lose control of the horses pulling the chariot and veered out, setting the Earth ablaze. 

3200 Phaethon The 3200 Phaethon is a three-mile long asteroid that is expected to pass by Earth Saturday. Here, an asteroid is pictured December 15, 2017. Photo: Twitter