PLANET Earth experienced a very close encounter with a space rock – the size of a HOUSE.
The asteroid was watched by astrophysicists as it zoomed past at a distance of about 27,300 miles, which is an eighth of the distance from the Earth to the Moon, according to the European Space Agency.
The asteroid dubbed 2012 TC4 first flitted past our planet in October 2012 at about double the distance before disappearing from view.
It is between 15 and 30 metres long and was travelling at a speed of about nine miles per second when spotted.
The Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile has been playing close attention and tracked it’s trajectory ahead of the close encounter.
TC4 flew past Earth at roughly 16,000mpg (4.5 miles a second) and passed within 27,000 miles of Antarctica.
The head of the European Space Operations Centre in Germany said: “It’s damn close. The farthest satellites are 36,000 kilometres [22,000 miles] out, so this is indeed a close miss.”
If an object the size of TC4 were to enter Earth’s atmosphere, “it would have a similar effect to the Chelyabinsk event,” ESA said.
In 2013, Russians witnessed the Chelyabinsk meteor. Locals claimed they saw bright objects in the sky as the asteroid entered the Earth’s atmosphere over Russia.
Local footage captured the fireball streaking across the sky, and some witnesses claim they felt intense heat.
For researchers, the near miss will provide a rare chance to test Earth’s “planetary defence” systems – which at this point are focused on early warning rather than active asteroid deflection.
Observing TC4’s movements “is an excellent opportunity to test the international ability to detect and track near-Earth objects and assess our ability to respond together to a real asteroid threat,” said an ESA statement.
A 40-metre space rock that was slightly bigger than TC4 caused the largest Earth impact in recent history when it exploded over Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908.
In 2013, a meteoroid of about 20 metres exploded in the atmosphere over the city of Chelyabinsk in central Russia with the kinetic energy of about 30 Hiroshima atom bombs.
The resulting shockwave blew out the windows of nearly 5,000 buildings and injured more than 1,200 people.
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