A small asteroid is expected to fly by earth on Thursday, October 12.
According to NASA, the asteroid estimated to be between 50 to 100 feet (15 to 30 meters) in size, and it will pass by our planet safely. The asteroid, called 2012 TC4, has been on astronauts and scientists’ radars since it was first observed in 2012.
The 2012 TC4 is expected to safely pass by earth at a distance of approximately 42,000 kilometers, which is a little over one tenth the distance to the Moon and just above the orbital altitude of communications satellites. NASA says that this encounter with TC4 is being used by asteroid trackers around the world to test their ability to operate as a coordinated international asteroid warning network.
Although the asteroid poses no risk of impact with earth, scientists and astronauts are using this close approach to test the ability of a growing global observing network to communicate and coordinate observations in a real scenario.
“Scientists have always appreciated knowing when an asteroid will make a close approach to and safely pass the Earth because they can make preparations to collect data to characterize and learn as much as possible about it,” said Michael Kelley, program scientist and NASA Headquarters lead for the TC4 observation campaign, in a press release earlier this year.
NASA said that this “test” of a global asteroid-impact early-warning system is a volunteer project, conceived and organized by NASA-funded asteroid observers and supported by the NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO).
“Asteroid trackers are using this flyby to test the worldwide asteroid detection and tracking network, assessing our capability to work together in response to finding a potential real asteroid-impact threat,” Kelley said.
But luckily for the planet, NASA predicts no currently known asteroids will impact earth for the next 100 years.