Recently, a humongous asteroid named Florence came record-breaking close to Earth during its fly-by and now our Earth is gearing up to witness another near-miss flyby of a house-sized asteroid.
On Thursday, a roughly 20-meter wide asteroid dubbed 2012 TC4 will zoom past Earth in a close encounter estimated to be about 44,000 kilometres above Earth- just above the 36,000km plane at which hundreds of geosynchronous satellites orbit the Earth. The distance is about one-eighth the distance between the Earth and the Moon. The scientists said that although the asteroid does not pose any threat to Earth but still this close approach will help them to track its orbit and give them a rare chance to rehearse for a real-life asteroid which could enter Earth’s atmosphere and pose a threat to our planet.
NASA’s Mike Kelley, who leads the Thursday’s exercise to spot, track and intimately probe the transient visitor, said that there is no chance of collision, not even with the satellites. He informed that their research team has been observing TC4 for two months, so they have very accurate position information about it which will help them obtain very precise calculations of its orbit.
Normally, the bigger asteroids are tracked easily, and more than 90 percent of large asteroids have been catalogued till date. So, it’s the small asteroids that are difficult to track and are dangerous for our planet. For example, in 2013, a meteoroid, similar to the size of TC4, exploded in the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk in Russia and the resulting shockwave blew out the windows of nearly 5,000 buildings and injured more than 1,200 people. But 2012 TC4 asteroid is different. It was traced way back in 2012 and its one of those thousands of space rocks whose whereabouts are known.
But still, there are millions in space which are not traced yet. So, if scientists become successful in getting precise details about the TC4 asteroid and its orbit, then, we can be bettered prepared for any future threats possessed by similar types of asteroids. Also, as the TC4 is expected to return to earth in 2050 and 2079, hence, we can get well prepared to counter its danger in future, if any.