As­ter­oid misses Earth, next visit in 2079

Oman Daily Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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