The asteroid that came “damn close” to slamming into the Earth this week could cause utter devastation several decades down the road, and scientists can’t rule out an eventual collision. The rock, known as 2012 TC4, came within a cosmic hair of our planet just a couple of days ago, slipping by at a distance of just over 27,000 miles, but future safe passes are anything but certain.
TC4 came so close to Earth this time around that it was nearly within the orbit of many of our satellites, and just a fraction of the distance between Earth and the Moon. Based on current models forecasting its path, the rock will perform another near-miss in 2050, and we should be safe for that event, but its return in 2079 is giving scientists a reason to worry.
“We know today that it will also not hit the Earth in the year 2050,” Rudiger Jehn of the Eurpean Space Agency explains. “But the close flyby in 2050 might deflect the asteroid such that it could hit the Earth in the year 2079.”
The unpredictable nature of TC4’s path following its visit to Earth in 2050 is definitely worrisome, but the chances of an actual strike are still not great. At the moment, the odds of it hitting Earth are somewhere around 1 in 750, or about 0.13%.
The good news is that even if TC4 did manage to hit the Earth, it’s not exactly the kind of “planet killer” object that would threaten human existence. The rock is about the size of a house, meaning that it could do some serious damage, especially if it struck or exploded over a major city, and in that case the devastation would indeed be significant, but if you happened to be in its path you could shove off of this mortal coil knowing that the rest of humanity would pull through, if that’s any consolation.