Will asteroid 2012 TC4 hit Earth in October 2017?

April 13, 2015 by Tomasz Nowakowski, Astrowatch.net
Will asteroid 2012 TC4 hit earth in October 2017?

On Oct. 12, 2017, the asteroid 2012 TC4 is slated to whizz by Earth dangerously close. The exact distance of its closest approach is uncertain, as well as its size. Based on observations in October 2012 when the space rock missed our planet, astronomers estimate that its size could vary from 12 to 40 meters. The meteor that exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February 2013, injuring 1,500 people and damaging over 7,000 buildings, was about 20 meters wide. Thus, the impact of 2012 TC4 could be even more devastating. "It is something to keep an eye on," Judit Györgyey-Ries, astronomer at the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory, told astrowatch.net. "We could see an airburst maybe broken windows, depending on where it hits."

The house-sized was discovered on Oct. 4, 2012 by the Pan-STARRS observatory in Hawaii. Week later, it gave Earth a close shave when it passed the planet at the distance of 0.247 LD (lunar distance), or 94,800 km. 2012 TC4 is an elongated and rapidly rotating object and has been known to make many close approaches to Earth in the past. Now, the scientists try to determine the exact path of 2017 fly-by and the probability of a possible impact. 

"It has a 0.00055% cumulative chance that it will hit," Györgyey-Ries said. "The fact that the MOID [minimum orbit intersection distance] is only 0.079 LD flags it as a possible impactor. However it is just the smallest possible distance between the orbits."

"There is one in a million chance that it could hit us," Detlef Koschny, head of the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Segment in the Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme office at ESA, told astrowatch.net. He also tried to estimate the exact size of the celestial body. "The size was estimated from the brightness, but we don't know the reflectivity. So it could be smaller or larger, assume from 10 m to 40 m. A 40 m iron object would go through the atmosphere and make a crater; a 10 m rocky object would be hardly noticed."

Makoto Yoshikawa of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), member of NEOs Division at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) is convinced that the asteroid poses no danger to Earth. "The distance is very small. But this distance does not mean the collision," he said.

NASA's Asteroid Watch has assured there is no chance this asteroid will hit our planet, but Györgyey-Ries admits more observations are needed to mitigate the uncertainties.

Will asteroid 2012 TC4 hit earth in October 2017?
Asteroid 2012 TC4 as seen by the Remanzacco Observatory team of Ernesto Guido, Giovanni Sostero, Nick Howes on Oct. 9, 2012.

"Although it has a large uncertainty along the orbit, it is much less than the radial uncertainty, so it just changes the time of the closest flyby. I would say based on this, that there is no chance of impact in 2017, but more observations could help to reduce the uncertainties," she said.

Koschny is also aware of the incertitude. Speaking of the asteroid's size and orbital characteristics, he indicated that "certain items have large uncertainties, in particular the size." He noted that if it's a rocky asteroid and if it hit, the effects would be similar to the Chelyabinsk impact.

As of Apr. 12, 2015, there are 1572 potentially hazardous asteroids (PHA) detected. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time.

Explore further: Huge asteroid 2004 BL86 to fly by Earth

Related Stories

Huge asteroid 2004 BL86 to fly by Earth

January 26, 2015

Asteroid 2004 BL86, slated to swoosh by Earth on Jan. 26, is the largest known body to pass near our home planet until 2027. But there's no need to panic as the astronomers estimate that the 500 meters-wide space rock will ...

Asteroid 2012 TC4 to buzz Earth on October 12

October 12, 2012

Asteroid 2012 TC4 will give Earth a relatively close shave on October 12, 2012, passing at just a quarter of the distance to the orbit of the Moon. Discovered by Pan-STARRS observatory in Hawaii just last week on October ...

Potentially hazardous asteroid surprises astronomers

December 15, 2014

"Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour," could be still an actual description of our ability to predict asteroid threats to Earth. The sentence from the Bible (Matthew 25:13) sounds like a reminder of a vast ...

Stranger in the night: space rock to make close Earth flyby

February 8, 2013

(Phys.org)—A little-known asteroid will skim past Earth on 15 February, passing just 28 000 km from our planet. The 50 m-diameter chunk of space rock was discovered last year by ESA-sponsored amateur astronomers in Spain.

Huge asteroid to whip past Earth on Monday

January 21, 2015

An asteroid up to 1,800 feet (550 meters) across is headed Earth's way. But don't worry: It will miss us by 745,000 miles, about three times the distance between Earth and the moon.

Asteroid 2013 TV135: A reality check

October 18, 2013

(Phys.org) —Newly discovered asteroid 2013 TV135 made a close approach to Earth on Sept. 16, when it came within about 4.2 million miles (6.7 million kilometers). The asteroid is initially estimated to be about 1,300 feet ...

Recommended for you

Giant radio flare of Cygnus X-3 detected by astronomers

December 7, 2016

(Phys.org)—Russian astronomers have recently observed a giant radio flare from a strong X-ray binary source known as Cygnus X-3 (Cyg X-3 for short). The flare occurred after more than five years of quiescence of this source. ...

Dark matter may be smoother than expected

December 7, 2016

Analysis of a giant new galaxy survey, made with ESO's VLT Survey Telescope in Chile, suggests that dark matter may be less dense and more smoothly distributed throughout space than previously thought. An international team ...

Cassini transmits first images from new orbit

December 7, 2016

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has sent to Earth its first views of Saturn's atmosphere since beginning the latest phase of its mission. The new images show scenes from high above Saturn's northern hemisphere, including the planet's ...

New evidence for a warmer and wetter early Mars

December 7, 2016

A recent study from ESA's Mars Express and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provides new evidence for a warm young Mars that hosted water across a geologically long timescale, rather than in short episodic bursts ...

ExoMars orbiter images Phobos

December 7, 2016

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has imaged the martian moon Phobos as part of a second set of test science measurements made since it arrived at the Red Planet on 19 October.

8 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

DarkLordKelvin
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 13, 2015
No.
physyD
3 / 5 (2) Apr 13, 2015
I'd move out of New York city.
ForConsideration
3.9 / 5 (8) Apr 13, 2015
Sometimes a low-cost solution is best. If we were to blast disco music into outer space, I think the asteroid would do everything possible to miss us.
foolspoo
5 / 5 (2) Apr 13, 2015
Well, Consideration, you are assuming an awful lot about interstellar narcotics.
Moebius
1.6 / 5 (7) Apr 13, 2015
With any luck it will hit somewhere where it won't do much harm. Like North Korea or China.
johngo
not rated yet Apr 14, 2015
Capture it.
johngo
not rated yet Apr 14, 2015
Capture it.
vjb007
not rated yet Apr 14, 2015
"It is something to keep an eye on...."

Reminds one of a line from "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" (1974), to paraphrase:

Caz: "We're watching it on the (model) board..."

Frank: "Watching it! What the h*ll good is watching it! Get some supervision down there!"

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.