Close approach of asteroid 2012 TC4 poses no danger to Earth

NASA projection of Asteroid 2012 TC4 path

NASANASA are certain Asteroid 2012 TC4 will come no closer than 4,200 miles to Earth

Based on the observations they were able to make in 2012, asteroid trackers predicted that it should come back into view in 2017. Although there were some worries that this rocky object could hit the Earth, latest observations confirm that it poses no danger to our home planet at all. Now, it has brightened up as it has gotten closer to the Earth. Astronomers estimate that 2012 TC4 has a diameter between 26 and 85 feet (8-26 meters).

A chunk of space rock up to 30 metres wide is going to fly past Earth less than 50,000 kilometres away - "damn close" in space terms, as one scientist put it.

NASA hopes to use an worldwide network of observatories to track 2012 TC4 - which could still pass as close as 6,700km or as far away as 273,000km.

The asteroid drifted out of range of the asteroid-tracking telescopes shortly after it was detected.

"The new calculations indicate that TC4 will fly safely past our planet on October 12, at a distance of about 43,500 kilometers (27,000 miles) above the surface, or about one-eighth of the distance to the Moon", JPL wrote on its website.

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With error bars still in the asteroid's orbit calculations, there's the chance it could get as close as 42,000 km - just above the roughly 36,000 km altitude of geosynchronous satellites - and that could make the pass visible to amateur astronomers. When it passes Earth sometime on Thursday it is predicted to be around 27,000 miles from our atmosphere.

Therefore, new data provided by the latest observational campaign exclude the possibility of 2012 TC4 hitting 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.

Rüdiger Jehn of European Space Agency said that asteroid 2012 TC4 completes a one day loop around the Sun in 609 days, so it is expected to return to Earth in 2050 and then again in 2079.

"The October pass will bring the asteroid up to magnitude 14, so extensive physical studies will be possible, but only briefly".

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