To Earth approaching asteroid the size of a multi-storey building

James Marshall
August 11, 2017

An asteroid the size of a house will shave past Earth at a distance of some 44,000 kilometres (27,300 miles) in October, inside the Moon's orbit, astronomers said Thursday.

This is just far enough away to miss satellites which orbit at about 22,000 miles above Earth.

The asteroid completes an orbit around the sun every 609 days.

"It will not hit the Earth", said Detlef Koschny of ESA's "Near Earth Objects" research team.

Dubbed 2012 TC4, the asteroid first passed the Earth in 2012, when it was nearly twice as far away as it will be this year before disappearing off on its galactic path. The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile managed to locate the rock and determine its distance.

An asteroid is set to skim past Earth at a distance of 6,880km later this year.

"It's damn close", Rolf Densing, head of Germany's European Space Operations Center, told AFP.

The small asteroid, about 15-30m long (49-98ft), has been dubbed TC4.

For researchers, the near miss will provide a rare chance to test Earth's "planetary defence" systems - which at this point are focused on early warning rather than active asteroid deflection.

"This time we are adding in another layer of effort, using this asteroid flyby to test the worldwide asteroid detection and tracking network, assessing our capability to work together in response to finding a potential real asteroid threat".

A 40m-long space rock caused the largest Earth impact in recent history when it exploded over Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908, flattening 2,000 km2 of forest.

The resulting shockwave blew out the windows of almost 5,000 buildings and injured more than 1,200 people.

It measures, at most, up to 30 meters across - similar in size to the asteroid that hit Chelyabinsk in Russian Federation in 2013.

About 1,500 people were injured seriously enough to seek medical treatment, mainly by broken glass from windows that were blown in when the shock wave arrived.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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