Credit: ESA – P.Carril

An observational campaign using an actual close approach of an asteroid will exercise planetary defense preparedness.

The asteroid – 2012 TC4 – will be used on October 12th to test, for the first time, NASA’s network of observatories and scientists who work with planetary defense.

Vishnu Reddy of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory first suggested the staging of cosmic Homeland Defense.

“So we proposed an observational campaign to exercise the network and test how ready we are for a potential impact by a hazardous asteroid,” Reddy explains in a university press statement.

Vishnu Reddy of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory first suggested the staging of cosmic Homeland Defense.
Credit: Bob Demers/UANews

Recover, track, characterize

The goal of the TC4 exercise is to recover, track and characterize the space rock as a potential impactor in order to flex the entire system from observations, modeling, prediction and communication.

The incoming asteroid measures between 30 and 100 feet. And that’s roughly the same size as the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, on February 15, 2013.

TC4 was discovered by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on October 5, 2012, at Haleakala Observatory on Maui, Hawaii. The space rock will whisk by Earth’s surface at a scant 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) distance.

On Oct. 12, 2017, asteroid 2012 TC4 will safely fly past Earth. Experts say they cannot yet predict exactly how close it will approach, but are certain it will come no closer to Earth than 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers). Credit:: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Team effort

“This is a team effort that involves more than a dozen observatories, universities and labs across the globe so we can collectively learn the strengths and limitations of our planetary defense capabilities,” adds Reddy, who is coordinating the campaign for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office – the federal entity in charge of coordinating efforts to protect Earth from hazardous asteroids.

“This is the perfect target for such an exercise because while we know the orbit of 2012 TC4 well enough to be absolutely certain it will not impact Earth, we haven’t established its exact path just yet,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “It will be incumbent upon the observatories to get a fix on the asteroid as it approaches, and work together to obtain follow-up observations than make more refined asteroid orbit determinations possible,” Chodas said in a JPL press statement.

 

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