Asteroid the size of Eiffel Tower heading for Earth in December


The larger-than-expected size of an asteroid to come hurtling towards Earth will terrify many.

However, astronomers say the smaller-than-expected size should not take away from the likelihood of a potentially disastrous collision between the megatonoid and our planet this December.

The Meteorite Threat Network, which monitors asteroids' path, states the larger-than-expected asteroid from 2012 TC4 is 1330 metres (4,085 feet) long, rather than the 982 metres (29,726 feet) planned.

But the near-Earth object will still be less than a quarter of the size of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

The size of the asteroid measuring in at around 1330 metres (4,085 feet) is smaller than planned, but the monster-sized space rock will still be less than a quarter of the size of the Large Hadron Collider

The proposed 2024 KO was estimated to travel 16,875 miles (27,428km) from Earth and pop out near us on December 25, 2019, the same day Neil deGrasse Tyson will present The Living Planet's Findings.

Scientists have also worked out the last known asteroid in this form to have been seen in December.

The asteroid known as ‘16061237 NASA 1969’, which was discovered in 1994, now appears in December because the Earth was still in the midst of its winter months at the time.

According to NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, the comet-sized asteroid will be headed for Earth after an Earth-wide ‘midday emission’ if the planet's atmosphere captures the object (and ‘no projection of the solar effect’).

Asteroid 2012 TC4 is believed to be the largest asteroid that has been predicted by 2021. Experts are working to locate the new smaller size of a larger asteroid. It will be seen this December

The new asteroid is predicted to be bigger than the largest asteroid up until now, which is around 1,100 metres (4,310 feet) long

The research, published in Icarus magazine on November 5, states the asteroid estimated at a medium size (for short distances) shows a ‘midday emission’ meaning ‘sunlight can cause the object to glow at midday as seen from Earth.’

This ‘between-day’ projection is the ‘most suitable one,’ to use as the estimate of a new asteroid.

This prediction adds a dash of controversy to the asteroid being less than predicted, but the Minoru Inertial Object (MIO) programme at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is working to track all asteroids ranging from 30 to 300 feet (nine meters) in size.

According to JPL, asteroid 2012 TC4 was first predicted by 2003 –2005 LR1 for roughly a decade, and their predictions appeared to be correct during that time.

The NASA Lunar & Planetary Laboratory (LPL) also predicted that a similar-sized object would come to Earth this December.

Known as 16061237 NASA 1969, the asteroid can be spotted in near-Earth skies by the Phenomenon Finder Network (PRN) monitoring data

But in 2017, JPL was given data that had changed the larger-than-expected size of the asteroid to only 300 metres (932 feet).

The cigar-shaped lump of asteroid parts was discovered in December 1994 by Japan’s Hayabusa2 probe, which then returned to Earth and made thousands of close flybys to study the space rock.

‘I’m surprised that there were new generation of asteroids discovered,’ said Professor Abraham Loeb, astrophysicist at Harvard University and Oceanography Department at the University of British Columbia.

‘Three asteroids were now discovered (last year, 2019) that had been predicted by Earth swarmers before they formed, which suggests that there are new components that are still to be identified (and predicted).

‘The next generation of asteroids (to increase in size) could be formed during a “midday emission” that happens this year, because the Earth’s emissions capture them.’

Professor Loeb believes this asteroid – christened 2012 TC4 – could be an object more stable than expected.

Indeed, the predicted 2020 ‘fallen comet’, OGTY-012, came to Earth in mid-March this year and is even larger than predicted – before its flyby with Earth, it was estimated at 1,447 metres (3,799 feet) long.

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