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NASA says asteroid passed near Earth

13 Octobre 2017

The house-sized asteroid that just passed nearly as close by Earth as many satellites in orbit will be back, and a future visit might lead to it taking up permanent residency here.

The asteroid, dubbed 2012 TC4, is roughly 45 to 100 feet in size and is traveling at around 16,000 miles per hour.

Astronomers stressed the space rock, 2012 TC4, was never expected to hit the planet, although it did come very close, astronomically speaking.

As its name suggests, the asteroid was first spotted in 2012 by a telescope in Hawaii.

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NASA researchers were sure there was no risk of impact, but they did capitalize on the close encounter by testing their asteroid warning systems.

"Asteroid trackers are using this flyby to test the worldwide asteroid detection and tracking network, assessing our capability to work together in response to finding a potential real asteroid-impact threat", explained Michael Kelley, program scientist and NASA PDCO lead for the TC4 observation campaign.

Less than a day later, the asteroid is already on a journey away from Earth. Even if it smashed into Earth's atmosphere, scientists were not too concerned about major damage.

That's about one-tenth of the distance to the moon, and just beyond the orbit of Earth's satellites.