A small asteroid named 2012 TC4 passed today very close to Earth. It was not dangerous and allowed scientists to simulate a defense exercise, that is, to prepare in case one of these objects posed a real threat in the future.
The 2012 TC4 asteroid traveled between Earth and Moon at a minimum distance of less than 42,000 kilometers and at a relative velocity with respect to the Earth of 7.3 km per second. His move “is not worrisome,” said Detlef Koschny of the European Space Agency (ESA). “But we will use it to train ourselves,” he added.
“So, on the day that a truly dangerous object arrives, we will have rehearsed several times before,” said the scientist, who was involved in the Rosetta, Smart-1, Venus Express, Chandrayaan-1 (ISRO) and ExoMars 2016 missions.
The exercise was coordinated by the University of Maryland, in the United States, along with NASA, ESA and several observatories.
Michael Kelley of NASA’s Planetary Studies division said the passage of asteroids near Earth “is quite frequent,” but what made this “a special event” is that the rock was subject to “an exercise of planetary defense. ”
The observatories directed their telescopes towards the asteroid, a “very small object”, “like a house” between 15 and 30 meters, Koschny explained, when he approached Earth and sent the information to emergency management centers . “We will then see if the data we send them are understood properly, if they are clear or if things are to be improved,” Koschny said.
The asteroid was not visible to the naked eye, but fans equipped with good telescopes could have captured images. Australia was the most easily observable place, when the 2012 TC4 passed as close to Earth at 5.41 GMT (2.41 in Argentina).
This object, which revolves around the sun in 609 days, was discovered in 2012, but had not been observed in the last five years. It was detected again this year by the VLT telescope of the Southern European Observatory, in Chile, and allowed astronomers to accurately calculate its trajectory.