A massive asteroid will approach Earth on Thursday

Gwen Vasquez
October 13, 2017

NASA is using an asteroid's close flyby to test Earth's warning network for incoming space rocks.

That represents about an eighth of the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

There was no actual risk of the asteroid hitting home, but it did provide scientists with the opportunity to test NASA's planetary defense systems.

It will not hit Earth on its next approach but could come close in 2079 - another reason for studying its route through the solar system.

Earth's global network is made up of volunteer astronomers who monitor specific aspects of the asteroid, such as density, trajectory and size, and communicate with other teams around the world.

As its name suggests, 2012 TC4 was first discovered five years ago, and was spotted most recently in July by the European Space Agency and the European Southern Observatory.

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Near Earth Asteroid 2012 TC4 is surrounded by a blue circle in this ESO image.

"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, a NASA program scientist.

That blast, which had 30 times the kinetic energy of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, left more than 1,200 people injured and blew out windows in approximately 5,000 buildings.

Initially, researchers did not have any idea about the asteroid but later when they closely observed the space objects they came to know about its arrival.

Flybys like this one are actually quite common - about three objects similar in size to TC4 graze past at a similar distance every year. Ideas on solving the project span a wide range of categories, though it seems like altering an asteroid's path via a controlled impact has become the most popular.

"For us this is a test case", said Jehn's colleague Detlef Koschny. The very amusing Joanne McNally and Bernard Casey joined us on the sofa, Kymann and Dara put an age-old food rivalry to the test, Shifts had a really awkward chat with their barber, the super-talented Tara Lee played a cracking Magic Cover and one girl even travelled all the way from Cavan for a free burger.

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