As­ter­oid to pass alarm­ingly close to Earth

CityPress - - News -

Nasa Earth de­fence spe­cial­ists are closely mon­i­tor­ing the ap­proach of an as­ter­oid that is due to make a stag­ger­ingly close pass of Earth on Thurs­day.

Ex­perts are con­vinced it will not im­pact, but say it will skim earth at a dis­tance of about 6 800km, which is a cat’s whisker in as­tro­nom­i­cal terms.

As­ter­oid 2012 TC4 is es­ti­mated to be 30m in size.

The 20m Chelyabinsk me­teor ex­ploded in the at­mos­phere above the Rus­sian city un­ex­pect­edly on Fe­bru­ary 15 2013. Space agen­cies had no idea it was ap­proach­ing be­fore the ex­plo­sion ripped through the air. Most in­juries sus­tained were from fly­ing bro­ken glass from build­ings dam­aged by the strength of the ex­plo­sion – 26 to 33 times as much en­ergy as the atomic bomb dropped on the Ja­panese city of Hiroshima in 1945.

Nasa sci­en­tists said they were ex­cited about what could be learnt from TC4.

A spokesper­son said: “They plan to use its close ap­proach to Earth as an op­por­tu­nity to test Nasa’s net­work of ob­ser­va­to­ries and sci­en­tists who work with plan­e­tary de­fence.

“Even though sci­en­tists can­not yet pre­dict ex­actly how close it will ap­proach, they are cer­tain it will come no closer than 6 800km from the sur­face of Earth.”

Michael Kelley, pro­gramme sci­en­tist and Nasa Head­quar­ters lead for the TC4 ob­ser­va­tion cam­paign, said: “Sci­en­tists have al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated know­ing when an as­ter­oid will make a close ap­proach to and safely pass Earth be­cause they can make prepa­ra­tions to col­lect data to char­ac­terise and learn as much as pos­si­ble about it.

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

– The Ex­press

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