A house-size asteroid dubbed 2012 TC4 will safely pass Earth on Thursday, October 12 but at an altitude of less than 44,000km (27,300 miles), which represents about an eighth of the distance between the Earth and the moon.
“We’ve now been observing TC4 for two months, so we have very accurate position information on it, which in turn allows very precise calculations of its orbit, which will not cross that of Earth nor its satellites”, NASA’s Mike Kelley said to media. The object was first spotted five years ago. It is 15 to 30 metres (50 to 100ft) wide , about the size of the meteoroid that exploded in the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk in central Russia in 2013, with 30 times the kinetic energy of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
The path of the asteroid TC4
On its 609-day loop around the Sun, TC4 will return to Earth in 2050 and 2079, according to Rüdiger Jehn of the European Space Agency’s Near-Earth Object program in the Netherlands. With a one-in-750 chance of hitting the planet then, TC4 is listed at number 13 on the “risk list” of objects posing even the remotest impact risk.. The TC4 asteroid has been chosen to test the global asteroid pre-warning system, fed by a network of observatories, universities and labs around the world. “For us this is a test case,” said Jehn’s colleague Detlef Koschny. “We are practicing for the real serious case.”