Asteroid the size of a house 'will shave' past Earth in October

Nicola Harley
Asteroid 2012 TC4 appears as a dot at the centre of this composite of 37 individual 50-second exposures obtained by the European Space Agency. - AFP

An asteroid the size of a house 'will shave' past the Earth in October, inside the Moon's orbit, astronomers have revealed.

It is expected to pass the Earth at a distance of some 44,000 kilometres (27,300 miles).

The rock will just be an eighth of the distance from the Earth to the Moon - far enough to just miss our geostationary satellites orbiting at about 36,000 kilometres, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

"It will not hit the Earth," said Detlef Koschny of ESA's.

"Near Earth Objects" research team. "That's the most important thing to say."

Graphic: How close will the asteroid come to earth?

The asteroid, dubbed TC4, first flitted past our planet in October 2012 - then at about double the distance before disappearing. It is about 15-30 metres (49-98 feet) long.

Scientists expected the asteroid to return for a near-Earth rendezvous this year, but did not know how far.

Now, the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile has managed to track down the rock and determine its distance.

FAQ | Asteroid 2012 TC4

"It's damn close," said Rolf Densing, who heads the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

"The farthest satellites are 36,000 kilometres out, so this is indeed a close miss," he said, adding it was nothing to lose sleep over.

"As close as it is right now, I think this prediction is pretty safe... meaning that it will miss."

The Pan-STARRS observatory in Hawaii discovered it on October 5, 2012, and, one week later, the asteroid passed Earth at a distance of only 58,905 miles (94,800 km), or about a quarter of the distance between us and the moon.

Astronomers haven’t seen the asteroid since 2012, because it’s been so distant and so faint. 

At a glance | Will an asteroid strike destroy the Earth?

 

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes