Technology Small Asteroid Gives Earth a Close Shave in Highly Anticipated Flyby

00:49  13 october  2017
00:49  13 october  2017 Source:   Space.com

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A small asteroid buzzed Earth early Thursday (Oct. 12) in a close flyby that scientists had been looking forward to for months. The space rock, known as 2012 TC4, zoomed about 26,000 miles (42,000 kilometers) above Antarctica at 1:42 a.m. EDT (0542 GMT) Thursday.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A small asteroid will fly past Earth early Tuesday within the Earth -moon system. The asteroid , 2010 TD54, will have its closest approach to Earth 's surface at an altitude of about 45,000 kilometers (27,960 Asteroid to Make Rare Close Flyby of Earth .

  Small Asteroid Gives Earth a Close Shave in Highly Anticipated Flyby © Provided by Space.com

A small asteroid buzzed Earth early Thursday (Oct. 12) in a close flyby that scientists had been looking forward to for months.

The space rock, known as 2012 TC4, zoomed about 26,000 miles (42,000 kilometers) above Antarctica at 1:42 a.m. EDT (0542 GMT) Thursday. That's about 11 percent the distance between Earth and the moon, and just beyond the orbit of geostationary satellites.

There was never any danger of an impact during this flyby, NASA researchers stressed. And 2012 TC4 is almost certainly too small to cause any serious concern, even if it did line up Earth in its crosshairs. (Before the flyby, scientists estimated the asteroid's diameter to be between 33 feet and 50 feet, or 10 to 15 meters.) [Famous  Asteroid Flybys and Close Calls (Infographic)]

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Editor's update (for 9 p.m. ET): Asteroid 2014 EC has zipped by Earth during its super- close flyby on Thursday (March 6). It was actually the third close flyby of an asteroid inside the orbit of the moon in the last two days, according to NASA. See our full story: Small Asteroid Gives Earth a Close Shave

For the fourth time since the start of 2017, a small celestial body will pass closer to Earth than the distance between us and the moon. Recently discovered asteroid 2017 BS32 zips by around midday Thursday. This latest narrow shave comes just a few days after the closest such flyby in months

"The impact effects would be simply a flash through the atmosphere and a breakup — a very bright fireball, basically," Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told Space.com. 

But Chodas and other asteroid researchers around the world were keenly interested in the flyby nonetheless. They've been tracking 2012 TC4 for months, as a sort of dry run for dealing with an approaching asteroid that may indeed pose a threat to Earth.

"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 strengths and limitations of our near-Earth object observation capabilities," campaign leader Vishnu Reddy, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, said in a statement.

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A small asteroid buzzed Earth last night (Nov. Surprise asteroid encounters like last night's flyby aren't uncommon; millions of space rocks are thought to orbit the sun in Earth 's neighborhood, and scientists have discovered just 15,000 of them.

This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 2014 EC past Earth on March 6, 2014. The asteroid 's closest approach is a distance equivalent to about one-sixth of the distance between Earth and the moon. The indicated times are in Universal Time.

"This effort will exercise the entire system, to include the initial and follow-up observations, precise orbit determination and international communications," Reddy added.

  Small Asteroid Gives Earth a Close Shave in Highly Anticipated Flyby © Provided by Space.com

Among the telescopes that were involved is the big radar dish at NASA's Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in the California desert, whose observations should help scientists nail down 2012 TC4's size, Chodas said. (The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico also would have been participating, he added, but it's been offline since Hurricane Maria pounded the island.)

But don't expect great radar images of the asteroid, as Goldstone and Arecibo have generated for other, much larger asteroids; 2012 TC4 is likely too small for any significant surface features to be resolved by radar, Chodas said.

Other scopes were slated to gather composition data during the flyby — information that should shed light on the space rock's density, Chodas said. And scientists should have a good idea of 2012 TC4's precise orbit in the aftermath of the encounter as well, he added.

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You can learn more about today's flyby in this video of asteroid 2017 AG13 from Slooh.com, which includes details on the space rock from Slooh Community Observatory astronomer Eric Edelman. Earth Gets Real Close Shave From Asteroid Discovered Day Earlier | Orbit Animation.

The bus-size asteroid 2012 BX34 will give Earth a close shave Friday. Get the latest news here: Bus-Size Asteroid Buzzes Earth in Close Flyby . A small asteroid will make an extremely close pass by Earth Friday (Jan.

As its name suggests, 2012 TC4 was discovered in 2012, by the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System in Hawaii. The asteroid flew past Earth that year — oddly enough, also on Oct. 12.

But the space rock dropped off the map shortly after that 2012 flyby, speeding beyond telescopes' reach into the dark depths of the solar system. And now astronomers have welcomed it back with open arms.

Thursday's flyby "was rather special in the sense that we don't often know about small asteroids approaching the Earth years in advance," Chodas said.

"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.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.

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Here's how Nasa plans to chase Neptune's moon Triton as it casts a shadow on Earth .
<p>Nasa is currently studying and analysing Neptune's largest moon Triton with the help of the flying telescope Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (Sofia), after the planetary body cast a faint shadow on the Earth on Thursday (5 October).</p>Nasa shared the specifics about how they plan to go about the mission in a post on Tumblr. Even though the event has already taken place, Nasa is yet to divulge any details about whether its mission was successful.

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