Astrophysicists will be eyeing the asteroid 2012 TC4 this Thursday. It is a rock the size of a house that will pass close to Earth, and was detected in 2012 by the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii, but only in July it was sighted again, in a trajectory that could at most affect some satellites.
NASA confirmed that there is no reason to alarm, and even if the asteroid entered the Earth’s atmosphere the result would be similar to that of the meteor that rocked Chelyabinsk in Russia in 2013. This phenomenon should only be visible in Australia.
Even without a considerable collision risk, this is a good opportunity for space agencies to test communication and tracking protocols in the event of a real and major threat occurring in the future.
The TC4 will pass very close and is between 15 and 30 meters in diameter, traveling in space at a speed of 25,749 kilometers per hour. It will pass through Earth on Thursday, at 7:00 am (Lisbon time), about 43 thousand kilometers from the atmosphere.
It looks like it’s far away, but on a planetary scale it’s like we’re talking about 1 centimeter.
It is only one-eighth of our distance from the Moon and very close to our satellites, the furthest of which are 36,000 miles from the atmosphere. Earth has already been hit by asteroids and meteors in the past, but the likelihood of one of these celestial bodies colliding and causing significant changes to life on Earth is remote.
The most famous of these collisions occurred about 65 million years ago on the coast of what is now Mexico and is believed to have led to the extinction of dinosaurs. However, there are more recent and less dramatic examples.
In the year 2013, a meteor entered the atmosphere over Russia. Unlike an asteroid, which is a solid, cohesive piece of rock, meteors are small clusters of space debris that combust during their entry into the atmosphere.
According to the Russian Academy of Science, the Chelyabinsk meteor weighed about 10 tones and fell apart before reaching the ground. About 1,000 people were injured by falling debris and a shock wave shook the Russian city, destroying most of the windows.
The meteor explosion in Chelyabinsk had more force than 30 Hiroshima bombs, according to NASA.
Among other occurrences of asteroids colliding with the Earth, only an object over 40 meters would require a response from the space authorities, namely through a propulsive satellite capable of deflecting its orbit or even explosives that could divide the body before its entry into the atmosphere.