(CBS/WKRG) A small asteroid thought to be only 50 to 100 feet (15 to 30 meters) in size will pass close to Earth on Thursday (October 12), zooming by at a distance of approximately 26,000 miles (42,000 kilometers) with no risk of impact with Earth, according to NASA scientists.
“It’s da** close,” Rolf Densing, head of the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, told The Telegraph. “The farthest satellites are 22,000 miles out, so this is indeed a close miss,” he said.
The asteroid’s distance from Earth when it safely passes by on Thursday will be a little over one tenth of the distance to the moon, just above the orbital altitude of communications satellites, NASA said on Wednesday (October 11).
The asteroid, called 2012 TC4, is being used by asteroid trackers around the world to test a coordinated international asteroid warning system designed to locate a real “asteroid-impact threat” one day, NASA said.
It said amateur astronomers may contribute more observations of TC4 but that the asteroid will be very difficult for backyard astronomers to see because it will not appear very bright and will be moving very fast across the sky.
TC4 was discovered in 2012 but asteroid-tracking telescopes lost track of it when it traveled beyond their range shortly after it was discovered. Scientists were able to predict from its initial sighting that it would come back into full view in the fall of 2017.
Its closest approach to Earth will be over Antarctica at 5:42 AM GMT, according to NASA, which added that no known asteroid is currently predicted to impact Earth for the next 100 years.