Asteroid to fly close to Earth


Shock waves shattered windows and knocked down onlookers as fragments of the disintegrating space rock peppered the Ural countryside.

Asteroid 2012 TC4 will safely fly past Earth on October 12.

The 65-foot-wide asteroid won't hit us, but NASA and other asteroid scientists are watching the flyby closely as they prepare a defense against a future space rock that could come crashing down in a big load of bad, like the asteroid that scientists say wiped out dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

"We know today that it will also not hit the Earth in the year 2050, but the close flyby in 2050 might deflect the asteroid such that it could hit the Earth in the year 2079", said Rüdiger Jehn of the European Space Agency's Near-Earth Object programme in the Netherlands. "After that, it becomes possible it could get very close and given the uncertainty of its trajectory you could have a potential impact further down the scale, it's just one of many reasons why the work being done by tracking stations and observatories is so crucial, he explained", Glenn concluded.

Though there's no direct threat to Earth, astronomy scientists will be closely watching 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 that killed the dinosaurs was about 10 kilometers wide, but any space rock larger than 1 kilometer wide that hits Earth could trigger catastrophic climate change, scientists say. The asteroid is at No. 13 on the "risk list" of objects that could impact Earth. "Things do hit other things, and we're not special in that regard", the associate director of the International Astronomical Union tells the Monitor.

"We've now been observing TC4 for two months, so we have very accurate position information on it, which in turn allows very precise calculations of its orbit", which will not cross that of Earth nor its satellites, he said.

Four years ago, a house-sized asteroid tore through the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, and exploded.