Asteroid That Flew Past Earth This Week May Struck Our Planet In 2079

Posted: Oct 15 2017, 2:40am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 15 2017, 2:43am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Asteroid That Flew Past Earth This Week may Struck our Planet in 2079
Credit: NASA/JPL

The latest encounter gave experts a rare opportunity to "rehearse" for a real strike threat in future

On October 12, a house-sized asteroid safely flew past Earth at a distance of about 31,000 miles. Though the space rock came far inside the moon’s orbit, it was never going to crash into the Earth. However, new observations indicate that it could pose serious threat to our planet in its future visit.

The asteroid, dubbed 2012 TC4, has been known to make close approaches to Earth in the past. It gave our planet a close shave in October 2012 and then disappeared from the view. On Friday, the asteroid again passed the Earth extremely close, with just around an eighth the distance of Earth to the moon. That relatively close encounter provided scientists an opportunity to study the asteroid up close and to track its trajectory. 2012 TC4 turned out to be an excellent target for ground-based observations.

“We pretended that this was a critical object and exercised our communication," said Detlef Koschny of the European Space Agency's Near-Earth Object program. “This is exactly why we do this exercise, to not be surprised by these things.”

2012 TC4 was measured about 10 to 12 meters wide and scientists have predicted that the asteroid will return to Earth in 2050 and 2079 after completing a 609-day loop around the Sun. It will miss Earth in its next approach but could come dangerously close in the following encounter and could lead to bad consequences.

The meteoroid that exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February 2013 and led to th einjuries to hundreds of people was about 20 meters wide. TC4 is about half the size of that meteoroid and it has one in 750 chances of hitting in 2079. That places it at number 13 on the "risk list" of space objects posing even the slightest chances of impact.

Astronomers find near-Earth asteroids every day and most of them are harmless. There can be still some dangerous near-Earth objects out there and it will be no good if we are not prepared to deal with them.

“It makes you wonder what will happen next time," said Koschny. “I would have felt a bit more comfortable if we... had a longer pre-warning time.”

Incoming space rocks could be deflected or destroyed with the help of futuristic technology.

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