NASA Prepares for Celestial Visit

posted by Alan McBride - 

NASA scientists say an event not happening till October has them pretty excited.

The event is a close flyby of a small asteroid, estimated to be somewhere between 30 and 100 feet in size.

This chunk of space rock is scheduled to bullet past the Earth, making it's closest approach around October 12.

Scientists say they are not sure how close the asteroid will come, but they do not expect it to pass any closer than 4,200 miles from the Earth.

They say that's a "closest case" scenario. 

The asteroid is likely to stay much farther away from Earth, probably around 170,000 miles

NASA scientists say they're excited about this because it's a chance to study this chunk of rock in great detail.

That study will also lend itself to shaping planetary defenses 

Scientists see this as a test of NASA's network of observatories and scientists who work with planetary defense.

The asteroid,  known as 2012 TC4, will start its trip toward Earth late this summer.

When that happens, large telescopes will be used to detect it and re-establish the asteroid’s precise trajectory. 

The new observations are expected to help refine knowledge about its orbit, narrowing the uncertainty about how far it will be from Earth at its closest approach in October.

That knowledge will be applied to mapping the behavior of other small bodies that could someday cause concerns for the people of Earth.

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