Asteroid 2012 TC4's closest visit to earth tomorrow triggers interest among space scientists

An asteroid will make a close travel nearby earth on October 12. Scientists are seeing it as an oppurtunity to learn about earth's asteroid defense system.

Amid David Meade's doomsday speculation to begin on October 15, an asteroid named 2012 TC4 will flyby earth on Oct. 12 at a distance just above the orbital altitude of communication satellites.

The 2012 TC4 asteroid, measuring 45-100 ft (15-10meter) in size, is the third to fly past earth in 2017. It will maintain a safe distance of approximately 26,000 miles (42,000 Km), one-tenth the distance between the moon and the earth.

The NASA authorities said that there is no possibility of any collision with earth. Instead, they are looking at it as an opportunity to test the worldwide asteroid detection and to assess their capability to work in response to potential real asteroid impact threat.

The asteroid trackers around the world would be looking forward to the day to determine their ability for a coordinated international asteroid warning network.

Vishnu Reddy, an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratories in Tucson said, "This campaign is a team effort that involves more than a dozen observatories, universities, and labs around the globe so we can collectively learn the strength and limitations of our near-Earth object observation capabilities."

The 2012 TC4 asteroid was discovered in 2012 by Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS).

Astroid Florence, which passed nearby earth on Sept. 1, 2017, was the largest asteroid to pass by the planet since NASA started its program to detect and track near-earth asteroids and comets. The asteroid of 2.7 miles (4.4 Km) size had traveled at a distance of about 4.4 million miles (about 18 times Earth-Moon distance) from Earth. NASA used its radars to calculate the size, shape, rotation, surface features, roughness and orbital path of the Asteroid Florence.

Another Asteroid named as 2014 JO25 had passed nearby earth on April 19, at a distance of 1.1 million miles, (1.8 million Km). This was 4.6 times the distance between Earth and Moon.

The frequent visits of asteroids have set NASA to explore a series of methods to deal with any asteroid threats in the future:

Planetary Defence Coordination Office (PDCO)

NASA's Planetary Defence Coordination Office (PDCO) is engaged since 2016 in finding, tracking and characterizing potential threats to Earth. It can issue warnings about possible impacts and assist plans and coordinate actions to face any situation with the help of 3D modules and using powerful NASA supercomputers to produce stimulations.

Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE)

Another Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission identifies size, composition and other measurements of the near earth objects. Started in Dec. 2009, it was kept under hibernation from 2011 to 2013, after completion of its astrophysics missions. It was later restarted as the NEOWISE in 2013. The mission has detected 693 near-earth objects, out of which 114 were new discoveries. It has also found more than 158,000 minor planets, out of which 34,000 were discoveries.

Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART)

Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission of NASA aims to deflect asteroids from its orbital paths to avoid its collision with earth. The first DART mission is planned to deviate the path of twin planets Didymos A and B which will pass by earth in Oct. 2022. The mission will attach itself with Didymos A and manipulate it to hit Didimos B at a speed nine times greater than the velocity of a bullet. This would deflect the paths of the asteroids and avoid a possible impact on the earth.

The NASA scientists, however, said that there are no asteroids which are predicted to impact earth in the next 100 years.

Related topics : Nasa
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