World News

House-sized asteroid 2012 TC4 reaches closest to Earth

House-sized asteroid 2012 TC4 reaches closest to Earth

Dubbed 2012 TC4, the space rock will shave past at an altitude of less than 44,000km (27,300 miles) - just above the 36,000-km plane at which hundreds of geosynchronous satellites orbit the Earth.

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. The distance is about one-eighth the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

Sure enough, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) spotted it again during the summer via a large telescope in Chile and issued a statement confirming that it would pass Earth at a safe distance of approximately 26,000 miles, easing fears that it was going to get a lot closer than that. The Chelyabinsk meteor exploded about 12 miles over Russian Federation with about 30 times more power than the nuclear bomb over Hiroshima in 1946.

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. It was traced way back in 2012 and its one of those thousands of space rocks whose whereabouts are known.

2012 TC4 will make further passes by Earth in 2050 and 2079, and there is a chance it could make impact on the latter fly-by. The asteroid will give a very good opportunity to test the global asteroid impact early-warning system, which is supported by NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

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"For us this is a test case", said Jehn's colleague Detlef Koschny. The very amusing Joanne McNally and Bernard Casey joined us on the sofa, Kymann and Dara put an age-old food rivalry to the test, Shifts had a really awkward chat with their barber, the super-talented Tara Lee played a cracking Magic Cover and one girl even travelled all the way from Cavan for a free burger.

The asteroid, 2012 TC4, is about 9x30 metres in size - nowhere near the size of the 9.6km rock that is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs.

And even if they become better at predicting a strike, there is very little to be done about it, for now.

Its closest point of contact with earth will be over Antarctica at around 6:40am, GMT.

It will not be visible to the naked eye nor with regular binoculars, "but it can be seen in the night of 11-12 October until about 4.00 am from European observatories", Jehn said.


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