1566 Icarus is an Apollo asteroid (a sub-class of near-Earth asteroid) whose strange characteristic is that at perihelion (is closest approach to the Sun) it is closer to the Sun than Mercury; it is said to be a Mercury-crosser asteroid. It is also a Venus and Mars-crosser. It is named after Icarus of Greek mythology, who flew too close to the Sun. It was found in 1949 by Walter Baade.
Icarus makes a close approach to Earth at gaps of 9, 19, or 38 years. Sometimes, it comes as close as 6.4 Gm (16 lunar distances and 4 million miles), as it did on June 14, 1968. The last close approach was in 1996, at 15.1 Gm, almost 40 times as far as the Moon.  The next close approach will be June 16, 2015 at 8.1 Gm (5 million miles).
In 1967, Professor Paul Sandorff from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology gave his students the task to make a plan to destroy Icarus in the case that it may be hitting Earth. This plan is known as Project Icarus (which was the basis for the 1979 science fiction film Meteor, starring Sean Connery).
References[change | change source]
Other websites[change | change source]
- NeoDys Object Listing: orbital elements and list of close approaches
- Article on TheSpaceReview.com about Project Icarus