Asteroid journey past Earth helps predict future asteroids

Posted at 5:09 PM, Oct 11, 2017

Thoughts of an asteroid the size of a house passing close to the earth may bring up images you've seen in the movies. But soon, one will be pretty close. But if you're looking for drama from this asteroid, you may be disappointed.

It's going to miss the earth.     

Ron Hranac is president of the Denver Astronomical Society and says, "This thing is the size of a house roughly so it's not that big a deal. But it is fairly close so it'll give scientists a chance to do some close up observations if you will."

The asteroid, named 2012 TC4, is about 50 to 100 feet and will be about 26,000 miles from earth. That's roughly one tenth the distance to the moon and just above the orbit of most communication satellites.

So will you be able to see it yourself? Maybe, if you're at an observatory. But if you're just staring into the sky, probably not.

"This asteroid pass will not be visible to the naked eye," Hranac advises.

Hranac says you'd need a pretty powerful telescope. "This would require at least an 8 inch telescope or larger to be able to see it," Hranac says. "And even then it would look like a really really tiny dim star moving slowly across the sky."

Luckily scientists will have their eyes on it, recording everything they see.

"Its shape, its size so they can refine that a little bit," Hranac says. "They'll know a little bit more about its orbital parameters too and they'll be able to compute a little more accurate order to determine whether there is a risk for an Earth impact in the future."

It's work that may help to keep asteroid scenes from the movies, in the theaters.