On October 12, an asteroid the size of a house will barely miss earth as it skims by at a distance of 27,000 miles. This will be a close call considering the size of the otherworldly body.
Asteroid 2012 TC4 will skim by earth a little too close for comfort. The latest observations, made on July 27, 31, and then again on August 5, revealed 2012 TC4 will pass within one-eighth of the moon’s distance from the planet.
Scientists believe it will shave past Earth at a distance of around 44,000 kilometers. That’s only 27,300 miles. With this close approach, NASA will have the opportunity to test its network of observatories for its planetary defense system, in case an asteroid did actually hit Earth.
“Scientists have always appreciated knowing when an asteroid will make a close approach to and safely pass the Earth because they can make preparations to collect data to characterize and learn as much as possible about it,” said Dr. Michael Kelley, a scientist working on the NASA TC4 observation campaign. “This time we are adding in another layer of effort, using this asteroid flyby to test the worldwide asteroid detection and tracking network, assessing our capability to work together in response to finding a potential real asteroid threat.”
Scientists tracked the house-sized asteroid using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. While they had expected the TC4 asteroid to pass by earth, they weren’t certain how close it would actually come.
“It’s damn close,” said Rolf Densing, who heads the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. But that’s also far enough away that it will miss all of the geostationary satellites currently in orbit. “The farthest satellites are 36,000 kilometers (22,400 miles) out, so this is indeed a close miss,” he told AFP. “As close as it is right now, I think this prediction is pretty safe, meaning that it will miss.”
The asteroid was still very far from Earth, about 35 million miles at the time of the latest observations. It is traveling at speeds of around 30,000 mph (14 km per second).