Watch a House-Sized Asteroid Pass Close to Earth Tonight (October 11/12)

Asteroid 2012 TC4More

An asteroid the size of a house is about to fly really close to the Earth today.

For comparison, the distance between the Earth and the Moon is about 400,000 kilometres.

"For us this is a test case", said Detlef Koschny of the European Space Agency's Near-Earth Object programme.

Asteroid 2012 TC4 is back for another visit nearly four years to the day since it was seen for the first time zipping by our planet.

Still, according to brightness measurements, 2012 TC4 is similar in size (30-100 feet) to the meteor that "caused a shock wave and explosion" in the atmosphere as it passed over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013, EarthSky reported.

Experts will find out how accurate their projections of size and distance were on Thursday, as well as study what the asteroid is made of.

While the Chelyabinsk event caught everyone unawares, TC4 is one of thousands of space rocks whose whereabouts are known.


2012 TC4 poses no risk of impact with Earth.

"We need to make very precise observations to be able to better predict the return in the year 2050", Jehn said.

TC4 is being used as a test for a global asteroid pre-warning system - supported by a network of observatories, universities and laboratories around the world - to see if such rocks can be accurately tracked.

As its name suggests, 2012 TC4 was discovered in 2012, by the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System in Hawaii. The very amusing Joanne McNally and Bernard Casey joined us on the sofa, Kymann and Dara put an age-old food rivalry to the test, Shifts had a really awkward chat with their barber, the super-talented Tara Lee played a cracking Magic Cover and one girl even travelled all the way from Cavan for a free burger. But even these space rocks can be risky if it hit the Earth.

Its closest approach to our planet will be over Antarctica at 1:40 a.m. EDT (5:40 a.m. GMT, 7:40 a.m. CEST, 10:40 p.m. PDT on October 11).

Futuristic projects mooted to deflect or destroy incoming space rocks have come to nought so far, and the only strategy would be to evacuate people in zones at risk.

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