December 17, 2017 will see an interesting astronomic event in the form of object 3200 Phaethon approaching our planet. This is a fairly large asteroid nearly 5 kilometers in diameter, which will fly past the Earth within 10 million kilometers, close by space standards.
The asteroid derives its name from its unusual orbit that in perihelia brings it closer to the Sun than any other named asteroid (20 million kilometers). To compare: Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun in the Solar system, is 46 million kilometers from the Sun.
"Based on the evidence, this asteroid was a bigger object before, but its many approaches to the Sun have caused it to crumble into smaller pieces that ended up forming the meteor shower. If so, the asteroid itself is the residue of a comet nucleus. This theory is corroborated by its extremely elongated orbit, which now brings it closer than Mercury to the Sun, and takes it farther away than Mars," Alexei Baigashov, head of the Astronomer Community (AC) at Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University said.
The Astro-Model program was developed by the AC's startup; it was chosen over the UMNIK program (Fund to Promote Scientific Small Businesses). It is an open virtual modeling environment using gaming scenarios to familiarize users with various physical laws of outer space. The program is widely used to teach a broad range of astronomic knowledge, from basic theory to virtual experiments with self-assigned terms. The image of Phaethon's encounter with Earth is one of the more vivid experiments using the Astro-Model.