Asteroid to pass close to earth

3-D rendering of an asteroid | Image by Digital Storm, Getty Images, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A small asteroid the size of a house and traveling at more than 30,000 mph is slated to pass well inside of the moon’s orbit, without posing a threat to the planet.

The asteroid dubbed 2012 TC4 will pass by earth Oct. 11 at a distance of 27,000 miles, a distance closer to the earth than the moon, 180,000 miles closer in fact.

Estimated to be only 30 to 100 feet in size, the asteroid has been too distant and too faint to be detected over the last five years, until now.

On Oct. 12, 2017, asteroid 2012 TC4 will safely fly past Earth | Image courtesy of NASA, St. George News

Discovered on Oct. 4, 2012, by the Pan-STARRS observatory in Hawaii, the asteroid has not been seen by scientists again before it was spotted by a large telescope in Chile, according to a statement released by the European Space Agency Sunday.

2012 TC4 will come closest to Earth Oct. 11 around 11:42 p.m. MDT, close enough that Earth’s gravity will slightly alter the asteroid’s path, and Oct. 12 at 1:19 p.m. MDT the asteroid will pass 172,000 miles from the moon.

Astronomers now know it will miss the earth but will come close to barely miss the geostationary satellites orbiting the earth 22,000 miles above the planet’s surface, which are satellites aligned with the earth’s rotation used primarily for weather monitoring and communication, according to NASA.

See more: NASA’s animation of a safe earth flyby of asteroid 2012 TC4

For researchers, the near miss will provide a rare chance to test Earth’s “planetary defense” system for early warning rather than an active asteroid deflection at this point.

Near Earth Asteroid 2012 TC4 appears as a dot at the centre of this composite made using Very Large Telescope, October 8, 2017 | Image courtesy of the European Space Agency, St. George News

The “VLT”, or “Very Large Telescope” at Paranal Observatory was the first to find 2012 TC4 after it the first pass by in 2012 and houses the world’s most advanced optical instrument made up of four telescopes and a complex system of mirrors, allowing astronomers to see details up to 25 times finer than with the individual telescopes.

The equipment’s precision can reconstruct images equivalent to distinguishing ” the two headlights of a car at the distance of the Moon,” according to the European Southern Observatory’s website.

If an asteroid of this size entered our atmosphere it would have a similar effect to the Chelyabinsk event in February 2013, the European Space Agency statement said, where an asteroid 50 feet in diameter and weighing 11,000 tons struck earth’s atmosphere at 40,000 mph and broke apart more than 12 miles above the earth.

The Chelyabinsk event generated a shockwave that shattered glass and injured more than 1,200 people, shone more brightly than the sun and was 30-40 times stronger than the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II.

Observing TC4’s movements “is an excellent opportunity to test the international ability to detect and track near-Earth objects and assess our ability to respond together to a real asteroid threat,” the statement said.

To observe 2012 TC4 go to The Virtual Telescope Project 2.0.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.






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  • ScanMeister October 9, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Just saw on Spaceweather site .1 LD which is close compared to other ones.

  • ScanMeister October 9, 2017 at 9:46 am

    23,885 miles from earth and our geostationary satellites @ 22,000 miles. It seems it will pass a bit closer according to Spaceweather site. Wonder if we will have any interference from the fly by?

  • Billy Madison October 9, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Maybe Bruce Willis and Billy Bob can fly up and drill a hole in it?

  • utahdiablo October 9, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    Wait a minute….wasn’t this a “Ice Age” sequel?

  • NickDanger October 9, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    The most frightening thing about this asteroid is the fact that it’s already close enough to photograph.

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