FACT CHECK: Does This Photo Show An Asteroid That Passed By Earth This Month?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook over 2,400 times purportedly shows a view from India of an asteroid that flew close by Earth in December 2021.

Verdict: Misleading

While the photo was taken in India, it actually shows a meteor several years ago.

Fact Check:

The asteroid 4660 Nereus traveled past the Earth on Saturday at a distance of roughly 2.4 million miles, according to The Hill. It is expected to pass by the planet at a distance of about 745,000 miles by 2060, though that approach will still be beyond the moon’s orbit, the outlet reported.

In the viral Facebook post’s photo, a bright green streak can be seen in the sky high above an urban area at night. The Dec. 12 post alleges, “This is that asteroid that just missed earth about a day ago, in the skies over India….” (RELATED: Did The International Space Station Film A UFO For 22 Minutes?)

The picture predates Nereus’ recent close approach to Earth by several years, a reverse image search revealed. National Geographic awarded the photo an honorable mention in its 2016 Nature Photographer of the Year contest. The magazine credited the photo, titled “Serendipitous Green Meteor,” to photographer Prasenjeet Yadav.

Yadav has worked as a National Geographic Explorer and has taken photos for the organization. The picture of the meteor was taken in October 2015, according to Wired, and he posted it on Instagram in 2019.

“This GreenMeteor was captured while taking a time-lapse to document the urbanization around the Skyislands southern in India. The camera was set at 15s exposure for 999 shots and this came into one of those shots,” Yadav explained in the Instagram post’s caption. “Green Meteor’s greenish color come from a combination of the heating of oxygen around the meteor and the mix of minerals ignited as the rock enters Earth’s atmosphere.”

Black-and-white radar images of 4660 Nereus were included in a NASA planning report. The asteroid is over 1,000 feet long and estimated to be worth more than $4 billion by virtue of the minerals it contains, according to USA Today.

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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