Sci-tech

Earth had a close call with an asteroid today

Earth had a close call with an asteroid today

Detlef Koschny of the European Space Agency said, "Basically, we pretended that this is a "critical" object with a high risk of impacting Earth...and exercised our communication channels and used telescopes and radar systems for observations".

"It's interesting to study such a small object, but it's also very appropriate, because we're more likely to see a small asteroid heading for Earth impact than a large one, simply because there are far more small ones than large ones", he added.

Koschny said one big radar system in Puerto Rico did not work due to damage from Hurricane Maria but that another USA based radar system was used instead.

Asteroid 2012 TC4 came close - passing Earth at a distance of only around 44,000 km (27,000 miles), which is nothing in Universe terms. It will miss Earth by about 42,000 kilometers, which is just outside the range of geostationary satellites. It is believed to be between 14 and 30 metres wide.

It will be very hard for backyard astronomers to see because it will not appear very bright and will be moving very fast across the sky.

In 2013, a meteor which was about the same size as TC4 exploded in the atmosphere over the city of Chelyabinsk in central Russian Federation with the kinetic energy of about 30 Hiroshima atom bombs.

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While the Chelyabinsk event caught everyone unawares, TC4 is one of thousands of space rocks whose whereabouts are known.

The closest approach to Earth occurred over Antarctica at about 1:40 a.m. It wil likely return in 2050 and 2079 as it continually loops around the sun.

NASA has tested out Earth's planetary defences as Asteroid 2012 TC4 zoomed past Earth this morning.

In fact, they first noticed the traveling rock five years ago but, back then, it was on a different orbit.

Until now, researchers relied on "tabletop" tests, simulations with no actual asteroids involved. What made this one special was that it was chosen to test the global warning system. But even these space rocks can be unsafe if it hit the Earth.

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