asteroid 2012 Tc4 is fasting approaching Earth and will shave past the planet in October this year, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). However, the space rock is not likely to hit the Earth, and will zoom by at a distance of about 44,000 km—about one eight the distance between the Moon and Earth.

Detlef Koschny of ESA’s “Near Earth Objects” research team says there is no possibility of asteroid 2012 TC4 hitting the Earth.

Asteroid 2012 TC4 was first spotted in 2012

The asteroid 2012 TC4 was first spotted in 2012 by the Pan-STARRS observatory in Hawaii.

At that time, it was travelling at a speed of about 14 km per second, and zoomed by at about double the distance, before disappearing in space. Astronomers were expecting this asteroid to return in 2017, but had no idea about how close it would get to Earth. According to scientists, 2012 TC4 is about 15 to 30 meter long, and the size of a big house. Scientists at Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory in Chile gathered more information about the asteroid earlier this year, and also determined the trajectory of the rock. At that time, this rock was about 56 million kilometers away from Earth.

Determining the trajectory of a space rock

Scientists determine the trajectory of a space rock by first observing it movement along a small arc of its orbit.

Then they use this small arc to predict the full orbit of the object. Usually, the prediction is not very precise, and there is always an uncertainty about how the orbit of that space object will evolve over time, but still it gives a rough idea about how close that object might come to Earth.

According to Rolf Densing, the head of European Space Operations Centre in Germany, numerous geostationary satellites are circling the Earth at about 36,000 km, so this is going to be a close miss.

Many scientists view this rock as a chance to test the “planetary defense” systems on Earth.

In a statement, ESA said that 2012 TC4 presents an excellent opportunity to scientists to assess how they can respond as a single unit to a real asteroid threat.

The “planetary defense” systems developed so far in the world can give early warnings about such asteroids.

Researchers are now trying to develop innovative asteroid deflection systems that would be able to throw advancing asteroids off course. A 'Kinetic impactor' is one such approach that proposes to send a huge spacecraft towards an approaching asteroid to change its path.