This past Thursday was a normal day for most; you probably didn’t even notice the mobile RV passing us in space. I mean, an asteroid that came close enough to hit us.
The asteroid 2012 TC4 flew by the Earth, about 26,000 miles away from our only home. Very close when considering the Moon is about 239,000 miles away from Earth. Rolf Densing, head of the European Space Operations Centre in Germany, called the asteroid “a close miss.”
The asteroid had no chance of hitting the Earth but Antarctica got the closest sighting of the asteroid at 1:42 am. ET this past Thursday, October 12th.
After the discovery of the asteroid in 2012, the asteroid was too distant and faint to be detected. The rock is roughly 45 to 100 feet, traveling at 16,000 MPH.
NASA used the asteroid’s close travel to Earth to test their planetary defense system. The drill was to see if the system were to work if an actual asteroid were heading straight to the Earth. In previous tests, NASA would use pretend asteroids. Vishnu Reddy, a NASA consultant asked, “How prepared are we for the next cosmic threat?”
He would answer his question: “So we wanted to test how ready we are for a potential impact by a hazardous asteroid.”
NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office led the drill and they are in charge of coordinating efforts to protect Earth from hazardous asteroids. They are also responsible for finding, tracking, and characterizing potentially hazardous objects coming near Earth.
In order to deflect an asteroid, the asteroid would need to be detected years in advance. The most promising techniques that NASA are investigating are the “kinetic impactor” which uses an object to hit the asteroid to get it off course and the “gravity tractor” which would gravitationally tug on an asteroid by placing a large mass over it.
The good news for you and me is that there is no known asteroid that poses a significant risk of impact in the next 100 years.