This asteroid that just buzzed by Earth may make ‘critical’ impact in 2079.
On Thursday, a small asteroid flew by Earth, buzzing by the planet’s communication satellites, according to Quartz.
The asteroid, 2012 TC4, is estimated to be 50 to 100 feet in diameter and flew within 27,000 miles of Earth, nearing the tip of Antarctica.
Scientists were well aware of the asteroid. Instead of panicking, researchers tested out their asteroid detection system “as a means of preparing for what could be a real threat years from now,” Mashable reported.
"Asteroid trackers are using this flyby to test the worldwide asteroid detection and tracking network, assessing our capability to work together in response to finding a potential real asteroid-impact threat," NASA planetary scientist Michael Kelley said in a statement.
Detlef Koschny, of the European Space Agency’s Near-Earth Object program in the Netherlands, wrote in a blog post that his team “pretended that this was a critical object and exercised our communication,” according to Reuters.
That “real” threat may come in 2079.
As The Guardian reported, the asteroid’s future path will be changed by Earth’s orbit every time it comes close to the planet.
Rüdiger Jehn, of the Near-Earth Object program, told The Guardian the asteroid passes around the sun every 609 days.
It’s unlikely that 2012 TC4 will hit Earth in 2050. But in 2079, scientists feel it could hit Earth.
“We know today that it will also not hit the Earth in the year 2050, but the close flyby in 2050 might deflect the asteroid such that it could hit the Earth in the year 2079,” he said, according to The Guardian.
Still, the chances are 1-in-750 of hitting the planet, but it’s still listed within the top 15 of risky objects that could impact the planet.
“We need to make very precise observations to be able to better predict the return in the year 2050,” Jehn said.
NASA has already identified 90 percent of objects nearing Earth that could impact the planet.
“As of now, NASA does not expect any currently known asteroid, large or small, to hit Earth in the next 100 years,” Mashable reported. “But like asteroid 2012 TC4, some will pass alarmingly close to our humble blue sphere.”