Asteroid near Earth this week (watch it online)

Asteroid near Earth this week (watch it online)

NASA expects Asteroid 2012 TC4 to shoot past the Earth at a distance of just 31,000 miles and could even come as close as 4,200 miles.

"We know today that it will also not hit the Earth in the year 2050, but the close flyby in 2050 might deflect the asteroid such that it could hit the Earth in the year 2079", said Rüdiger Jehn of the European Space Agency's Near-Earth Object programme in the Netherlands.

An asteroid the size of a house is on course to shave the Earth's orbit this week, but experts said the near-miss poses no risk for the planet.

"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, he told AFP. Thankfully, the incredibly dim magnitude 26.8 body was recovered again by one of the European Southern Observatory's 8-metre Very Large Telescopes (VLT) in Chile on 27 July this year. For example, in 2013, a meteoroid, similar to the size of TC4, exploded in the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk in Russian Federation and the resulting shockwave blew out the windows of almost 5,000 buildings and injured more than 1,200 people.

That blast, which had 30 times the kinetic energy of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, left more than 1,200 people injured and blew out windows in around 5,000 buildings. There's no chance the asteroid will hit the Earth, but its proximity will be used to test an asteroid warning system.

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While the Chelyabinsk event caught everyone unawares, TC4 is one of thousands of space rocks whose whereabouts are known. However, it traveled out of the range of asteroid-tracking telescopes shortly after it was discovered.

"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", said Dr. Vishnu Reddy, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, leader of the 2012 TC4 observation campaign.

Asteroid will pass Earth well inside moon's orbit, giving us a chance to practise for a collision.

Its closest point of contact with earth will be over Antarctica at around 6:40am, GMT. "Just look up at the night sky and you can see things burning up in the atmosphere".

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