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Neighborly Asteroid

August 7, 2017

A fast-approaching asteroid will help space scientists practice their tracking skills.



A neighborly asteroid. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Five years ago, an asteroid more than ten meters wide unexpectedly whizzed by earth at a distance of about ninety-five thousand kilometers. Astronomers named the object 2012 TC4, and estimated its orbit and date of return: October 12, 2017. Now, space scientists all over the world are ready for it.  Program scientist Michael Kelley at NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office says the space rock won’t hit the earth, but it’s a good opportunity to test NASA’s tracking and communications systems.


We have an opportunity with an asteroid that has a little bit uncertain orbit and so we’re using this as a sort of fire drill to see how well we would work in an emergency.


Kelley say the flyby will also help them calculate the object’s orbit more accurately, so they’ll know if any future approaches pose threats. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon