Today morning (Oct. 12), astrophysicists were carefully watching a house-sized asteroid as it rushed very close to Earth. It was the size of a house.
This space rock is known as 2012 TC4. It zoomed about 26,000 miles (42,000 kilometers) above Antarctica at 1:42 a.m. EDT (0542 GMT) Thursday. That’s about 11 percent the distance between Earth and the moon, and just beyond the orbit of geostationary satellites.
The asteroid is currently on a similar path to Earth but will fly back out into space over the next few days.
Asteroid 2012 TC4 is around 10 and 30 meters in size. Astronomers believe it is bigger than the Chelyabinsk meteor which exploded above Russia in 2013. Thus, damaging thousands of buildings and injuring 1,500 people.
Pan-STARRS telescope at the Haleakala Observatory, in Hawaii, first spotted this space rock in 2012. For a while, it disappeared orbiting the sun then again reemerging in July in a trajectory inside our lunar orbit.
NASA researchers informed there wasn’t any danger of an impact during this flyby. Even if it targetted Earth, its small size wouldn’t do us any harm.
Nasa has released a video of 2012 TC4 as it zoomed past Earth.
Nasa is using the extremely close flyby to gather valuable data on the space rock.
Vishnu Reddy, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, is leading the 2012 TC4 campaign. Reddy is the principal investigator for a NASA-funded near-Earth asteroid characterization project. “This campaign is a team effort that involves more than a dozen observatories, universities, and labs around the globe so we can collectively learn the strengths and limitations of our near-Earth object observation capabilities,” he said in a statement. “This effort will exercise the entire system, to include the initial and follow-up observations, precise orbit determination, and international communications.”
Michael Kelley, programme scientist and Nasa Headquarters lead for the 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.”
Scientists describe the path of the asteroid as a “close miss”. This is because in astronomical terms this path is just a hair’s width away.