'Damned close' asteroid will miss Earth this time, say astronomers

'Damned close' asteroid will miss Earth this time, say astronomers

For comparison, the distance that geostationary satellites orbit at is roughly 22,000 miles, so TC4 is going to be incredibly close to our planet when it makes its pass. Scientists had expected it to flit past the planet again this year, but did not know at what distance.

Four years ago, a meteoroid of about 20 metres exploded in the atmosphere over the city of Chelyabinsk in central Russian Federation with the kinetic energy of about 30 Hiroshima atom bombs.

The observations showed that the asteroid would be close to us in October 2017, but, given that its orbit could not be followed in the last five years, there are uncertainties on its proximity.

"As close as it is right now, I think this prediction is pretty safe. meaning that it will miss". It was found this time by ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile.

It is travelling at speeds of around 30,000 mph (14 km per second).

It measures, at most, up to 30 meters across - similar in size to the asteroid that hit Chelyabinsk in Russian Federation in 2013.

For researchers, the near miss will provide a rare chance to test Earth's "planetary defence" systems - which at this point are focused on early warning rather than active asteroid deflection.

Asteroid 2012 TC4 is surrounded by a blue circle in this image from the European Southern Observatory.

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The campaign will exercise the global network of observatories and research organisations working on planetary defence.

But Earth's atmosphere stretches only a few hundred kilometres far, and TC4 will comfortably miss it.

It could pass just 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) from Earth for the first time since it went out of range in 2012, Nasa says. The 2012 TC4 Observing Campaign is part of a larger global initiative led by NASA.

"This time we are adding in another layer of effort, using this asteroid flyby to test the worldwide asteroid detection and tracking network, assessing our capability to work together in response to finding a potential real asteroid threat".

"We know for sure that there is no possibility for this object to hit Earth", said scientist Detlef Koschny of ESA's Near Earth Objects research team.

In 2013, a meteoroid of about 20 metres exploded in the atmosphere over the city of Chelyabinsk in central Russian Federation with the kinetic energy of about 30 Hiroshima atom bombs.

Densing, who has previously warned that humanity is not ready to defend itself against an Earth-bound object, said he would not lose any sleep, "not over this one".

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