An asteroid the size of a house is set to give Earth a close shave, and you can watch part of the space rock's approach live online this evening (Oct. 11).
The astronomy broadcasting service Slooh will air a webcast at 8 p.m. EDT tonight (0000 GMT on Oct. 12) focused on the space rock 2012 TC4, which will zoom by Earth just a few hours later. You can watch the show directly on Slooh's website. You can also watch the webcast on Space.com, courtesy of Slooh.
"Slooh will train its telescopes on 2012 TC4 in an attempt to capture the fast-moving space rock as it passes between Earth and the moon," Slooh representatives said in a statement. "Commentary from our asteroid experts will explore the threat they [asteroids] pose to our planet, both in reality and in the human imagination." [Photos: Asteroids in Deep Space]
Astronomers estimate 2012 TC4 to be 39 feet to 89 feet (12 to 27 meters) wide. That puts it in the same general size class as the object that exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February 2013, injuring more than 1,000 people.
There's no danger of an impact by 2012 TC4 on this pass, astronomers stress. But the space rock will get quite close, coming within a mere 31,200 miles (50,200 kilometers) of Earth's surface at 1:42 a.m. EDT (0542 GMT) on Thursday, according to the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, which is based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
For perspective: The moon orbits Earth at an average distance of about 239,000 miles (384,600 km).
2012 TC4 was discovered in 2012, by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System in Hawaii. The asteroid also flew by Earth that year — on Oct. 12, in fact, exactly five years before this latest close approach.
Astronomers around the world have been tracking 2012 TC4 lately and will continue to do so as the space rock zooms by Earth. Such work is designed to test the international asteroid detection and tracking network, to ensure it will work properly when a dangerous rock lines Earth up in its crosshairs.
Slooh isn't the only organization offering a 2012 TC4 webcast. The online Virtual Telescope Project will air two shows about the flyby today, one at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) and the other at 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT on Oct. 12). You can watch them here.