A chunk of space rock up to 30 metres wide is going to fly past Earth less than 50,000 kilometres away - "damn close" in space terms, as one scientist put it.
A small asteroid is scheduled to safely pass by Earth tomorrow at a distance of about 42,000 kilometres, allowing trackers around the world to test their ability to operate as an global asteroid warning network.
No asteroid now known is predicted to impact Earth for the next 100 years. Now, it has brightened up as it has gotten closer to the Earth. It will pass by Earth at about 1:42 a.m.
Though there's no direct threat to Earth, astronomy scientists will be closely watching it. Since then, observers around the world have been tracking the object as it approaches Earth and reporting their observations to the Minor Planet Center. The asteroid is at No. 13 on the "risk list" of objects that could impact Earth. The odds of that happening are about one in about 500,000 in any given year, Chodas said, noting that the larger the asteroid, the less the chance of an impact.
"Understanding these things is critically important because if a big thing is coming and we didn't know about it there's very little we could do".
Sky and Telescope notes its approach is close enough that the rock's orbit will get a small deviation from Earth's gravity. "Things do hit other things, and we're not special in that regard", the associate director of the International Astronomical Union tells the Monitor. For example, in 2013, a meteoroid, similar to the size of TC4, exploded in the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk in Russian Federation and the resulting shockwave blew out the windows of almost 5,000 buildings and injured more than 1,200 people. It will be a good opportunity for people to capture images of the asteroid using telescopes.