Asteroid to speed past Earth in October

A house-sized asteroid is expected to shave past our planet on October 12

"We know for sure that there is no possibility for this object to hit the Earth", Detlef Koschny of ESA's "Near Earth Objects" research team told AFP. "There is no danger whatsoever".

Dubbed 2012 TC4, the asteroid first passed the Earth in 2012, when it was nearly twice as far away as it will be this year before disappearing off on its galactic path.

Scientists expected the asteroid to return for a near-Earth rendezvous this year, but did not know how close it would get.

Astronomers recently spotted asteroid 2012 TC4 under a collaboration between the European Space Agency and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to locate faint objects that might strike Earth.

The observations showed that the asteroid would be close to us in October 2017, but, given that its orbit could not be followed in the last five years, there are uncertainties on its proximity.

Now the European Space Agency (ESA) has tracked down the giant hunk of rock, which is about 15 to 30 metres (49 to 98 feet) long and roughly the size of a house.

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

"It's damn close", said European Space Operations Centre head honcho Rolf Densing.


It is travelling at speeds of around 30,000 mph (14 km per second).

It will be a rare opportunity for researchers to test Earth's "planetary defense" systems, which are more about early warning than asteroid deflection, although research is being conducted into the latter.

The ESA said in a statement that observing TC4's movements "is 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".

'Physical properties of an asteroid (composition, structure, size) and its velocity relative to the Earth will influence the effects on an impact.

It could pass just 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) from Earth for the first time since it went out of range in 2012, Nasa says. That's when asteroid 2012 TC4 will slip past Earth at an expected distance of around 27,300 miles (44,000 kilometers).

The Chelyabinsk meteor exploded 16.3 miles above the surface with 26 to 33 times as much energy as that released from the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.

Densing, who has previously warned that humanity is not ready to defend itself against an Earth-bound object, said he would not lose any sleep, "not over this one".

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