Asteroid 2012 TC4 to pass ‘damn close’ to Earth tomorrow and give rare chance to test planet’s space defences  

11 Oct

On Thursday 12 October an asteroid the size of a house will be watched carefully by astrophysicists as it hurtles “damn close” to Earth.

The large space rock, named 2012 TC4, was first spotted five years ago by the Pan-STARRS telescope at the Haleakala Observatory, in Hawaii, before disappearing as it orbits the sun. It then reemerged in July on a trajectory well inside our lunar orbit.

Scientists have said the asteroid is on course to pass safely by, just south of Australia, and poses no threat.

However it presents space agencies with a rare opportunity to test the planet’s space defences and wargame what they would do if a larger, more threatening asteroid was detected heading straight for Earth.

How close will TC4 come to Earth?

TC4 is between 50 to 100ft in diameter and travelling through space at roughly 16,000 mph – 4.5 miles a second. It is predicted to start to pass Earth from around 7am GMT on Thursday and will be about 27,000 miles from our atmosphere.

This may sound like a long way away, yet it’s a short distance in planetary terms and around one eighth of the distance between the Earth and the Moon.  It is also just above the distance our satellites orbit.

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