An asteroid the size of a house will come “damn close” to Earth on Thursday, an expert said.
The space rock, dubbed 2012 TC4, is between 50 and 100 feet in diameter and is hurtling through space at about 16,000 mph — a whopping 4.5 miles a second, the Guardian reported.
It is expected to start its flyby about 3 a.m. EST and pass about 27,000 miles from our atmosphere.
In planetary terms, the distance is a mere stone’s throw away — about one-eighth that between the Earth and the moon. It is just beyond the distance of our orbiting satellites.
Rolf Densing, head of the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, said: “It’s damn close. The farthest satellites are (22,369 miles) out, so this is indeed a close miss.
“TC4 poses absolutely no threat to the planet, but it does afford a chance to test our asteroid tracking and space defense capabilities,” Densing added.
If an asteroid the size of TC4 or slightly larger were on course to hit a populated area, agencies such as the European Space Agency and NASA would work with relevant governments to possibly begin an evacuation, according to the Guardian.
But if the agencies detected an object larger than 130 feet across approaching, they would need to start thinking about deflecting the object from Earth’s path.
To achieve this, the agencies would fire a spacecraft into the asteroid in an attempt to shift its trajectory — in what is known as a “kinetic impactor” method.
But the asteroid would need to be hit when it was at least two years away to give it time to alter its path and clear Earth.
“Yes, we have the capability of hitting an asteroid or comet with a satellite,” said Detlef Koschny, near-Earth object segment manager at the Netherlands-based ESA.