An asteroid will whiz by Earth tomorrow, but there’s no need to worry. The space rock won’t be anywhere close to hitting our planet, though researchers will use it for a very important task: to test a particular early warning system that aims to warn Earth ahead of time about a potential asteroid impact. Such systems may be vital for avoiding disaster.
According to NASA, tomorrow will mark the passing by of asteroid 2012 TC4, which will do so at a distance of about 26,000 miles. Asteroid trackers around the globe have taken this as an opportunity to test the coordination of an international asteroid warning network, the space agency explains.
The asteroid’s presence will give agencies a real-world testing scenario in which they can put their radar and optical observations to work for warning about potential future impacts. This is an entirely voluntary project made possible via asteroid observers funded by NASA with the support of the NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office.
How well can experts around the world coordinate their information in what could one day be a real scenario in which an asteroid poses a threat to Earth? That’s what tomorrow’s test will find out, and information gathered during it may help work out issues that otherwise would interfere in the future.
Agencies around the globe have been developing concepts and technologies to help protect our planet from asteroid impacts, and NASA has played a large part in this effort. Ideas on solving the project span a wide range of categories, though it seems like altering an asteroid’s path via a controlled impact has become the most popular. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Earth is safe from asteroid impacts for at least another hundred years.