Asteroid misses Earth, next visit in 2079
PARIS: A house-sized asteroid grazed past Earth on Thursday, passing harmlessly inside the Moon’s orbit, as predicted, to give experts a rare opportunity to rehearse for a real strike threat in future.
Dubbed 2012 TC4, the object’s passing allowed scientists to practice spotting incoming objects, predicting their size and trajectory, and tracking their passage with a global network of telescopes and radars. “We pretended that this was a critical object and exercised our communication,” said Detlef Koschny of the European Space Agency’s Near-Earth Object programme. The trial run was “a big success,” he said.
The asteroid flitted past around 0541 GMT at less than 44,000 km from Earth’s surface — just above the 36,000 km plane at which hundreds of satellites orbit our planet. This was about an eighth of the distance between the Earth and the Moon. Asteroid 2012 TC4 was discovered in 2012 from an observatory in Hawaii and will next pass close by the Earth in 2079. There is even a 1-in-15,000 chance that it could hit the Earth that year, according to calculations.