Science

Earth-buzzing asteroid spotted ahead of its October arrival

Earth-buzzing asteroid spotted ahead of its October arrival

PLANET Earth will experience a very close encounter with an asteroid the size of a HOUSE in October. That's when asteroid 2012 TC4 will slip past Earth at an expected distance of around 27,300 miles (44,000 kilometers).

"It will not hit the Earth", said Detlef Koschny of ESA's "Near Earth Objects" research team. "There is no danger whatsoever".

Now, the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile has managed to track the rock down and determine its trajectory.

This is just far enough to miss the geostationary satellites orbiting at about 36,000km.

"It's damn close", said Rolf Densing, who heads the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. It is about 15m to 30m long, and was travelling at a speed of some 14km per second when spotted.

Not wanting to miss an opportunity when it sails past, researchers are now planning to use the rare chance to test Earth's planetary defense systems - which up until now only focused on early warning detection, not asteroid deflection. "Anyway, his observation is will be an excellent opportunity to test the worldwide community's capacity to detect and track near Earth objects and assess our ability to respond together to a real threat of asteroids", writes the european space Agency.

'Damned close' asteroid will miss Earth this time, say astronomers

Asteroids are rocky bodies left over from the formation of our solar system some 4.5 billion years ago.

About 1,500 people were injured seriously enough to seek medical treatment, mainly by broken glass from windows that were blown in when the shock wave arrived.

"[It's] an excellent opportunity to test the global ability to detect and track near-Earth objects and assess our ability to respond together to a real asteroid threat", ESA announced in a statement.

Dr Michael Kelley, a scientist working on the Nasa TC4 observation campaign, said: '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.

Based on predictions made at the agency's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies in Pasadena, California, it could also - and more likely will - pass much farther away, as far as 170,000 miles (270,000 kilometers).

While scientists aren't sure of its precise fly distance, they are certain it poses no risk to Earth or its satellites.

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