Barton Community College will present the full-dome video “Impact” at 7 p.m. Monday in the Barton Planetarium. The show is free and open to the public. Star gazing will follow.
Scientists have known for some time that the house-sized asteroid known at “2012 TC4” won’t hit the Earth, but it will come close. And that will allow them to test planetary defense networks.
At one point, TC4 was expected to come within 4,000 miles of our planet. The latest estimate has it coming within 27,000 miles of us. That is about one-eighth of the distance to the Moon (238,900 miles), according to NASA.gov.
The asteroid is estimated to be between 30 and 100 feet in size. The latest estimate has TC4 flying under the Earth on Thursday, Oct. 12.
A near miss is still cause for excitement because it will allow scientists to test the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s detection and tracking network.
“Scientists have always appreciated knowing when an asteroid will make a close approach to and safely pass the Earth because they can make preparations to collect data to characterize and learn as much as possible about it,” said Michael Kelley, program scientist and NASA Headquarters lead for the TC4 observation campaign. “This time we are adding in another layer of effort, using this asteroid flyby to test the worldwide asteroid detection and tracking network, assessing our capability to work together in response to finding a potential real asteroid threat.”
When people think about the solar system, they typically think about the sun and planets, but they often forget the smaller but much more numerous comets and asteroids, said Tim Folkerts, director of the planetarium at Barton Community College. While comets can be beautiful in the sky, comets and asteroids also pose a risk to earth.
On Sept. 1, a mountain-sized asteroid passed about 4 million miles from earth, and on Oct. 2 a bus-sized asteroid came with 54,000 miles, Folkerts said.
The Barton Planetarium will show the full-dome video “Impact” at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 9. The show is free and open to the public.
Monday’s video teaches about meteors, meteorites, asteroids and comets. It includes results from recent NASA missions and talks about the dangers these phenomena can pose to life on Earth.
“After the show, weather permitting, we will spend a little time star gazing,” Folkerts said. “Saturn will be off to the south and we will get a telescope out to let people take pictures of Saturn with their own smartphone cameras.”