Close Approach of Asteroid 2012 TC4

There’s an interesting astronomical event coming up on 12 October 2017: the close approach of asteroid 2012 TC4.

What’s interesting about it is that astronomers don’t really know how close it’s going to come to the Earth.

And this is because they only got a few days of observations of it the last time it came close to the Earth in October 2012, and were unable to accurately determine its orbit. And so this time around they simply don’t know where it’s going to go. It could pass by 400,000 km away (as distant as the Moon) – or it could come as close as 13,200 km (twice the radius of the Earth).

There’s been some uneasiness about this asteroid for years:

Will asteroid 2012 TC4 hit Earth in October 2017?

“It is something to keep an eye on,” Judit Györgyey-Ries, astronomer at the University of Texas’ McDonald Observatory, told “We could see an airburst maybe broken windows, depending on where it hits.”

They don’t even know how big it is either.

“There is one in a million chance that it could hit us,” Detlef Koschny, head of the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Segment in the Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme office at ESA, told He also tried to estimate the exact size of the celestial body. “The size was estimated from the brightness, but we don’t know the reflectivity. So it could be smaller or larger, assume from 10 m to 40 m. A 40 m iron object would go through the atmosphere and make a crater; a 10 m rocky object would be hardly noticed.”

The upshot is that a big international effort is going to be made in September to find out exactly where it is, and where it’s going.

Professor Vishnu Reddy of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson leads the campaign to reacquire 2012 TC4 and sees it as an opportunity for the collaborative observation campaign to utilize the international aspect of the network.  “This is a team effort that involves more than a dozen observatories, universities and labs across the globe so we can collectively learn the strengths and limitations of our near-Earth object observation capabilities,” said Reddy. The goal of the TC4 campaign is to recover, track and characterize 2012 TC4. “This effort will exercise the entire system, to include the initial and follow-up observations, precise orbit determination, and international communications.”

And yesterday I fired up my orbital simulation model, and got hold of NASA’s current estimate of its orbit, and took a look myself. I found that its orbit dips just inside the orbit of the Earth in October.

And then I put a cloud of rocks around it, and ran it round the Sun from October 2012 to October 2017. And I got a rock that lay just 550 km away from TC4 in 2012 to pass directly under the Earth in 2017, 13,233 km from its centre. In the image below, b[11] is 2012 TC4:

I also found that the Pacific ocean was facing the approaching rock cloud, so if there actually was any impact, it would mostly likely cause a tsunami in the Pacific as the asteroid punched through the atmosphere at a speed of about 7 km/second.

Most likely TC4 will come nowhere near the Earth. But as more and more of these asteroids are discovered by automated observatories like the Pan-STARRS project (which found TC4), there’ll be more and more of these false alarms. And some of them won’t be false alarms.

In fact, I can imagine a time in the fairly near future when there will be calendars detailing which rocks are expected to impact or skim very close to the Earth on each day. There will be millions of them, all with their orbits well established, and there will be warnings broadcast each day telling people in one city or other to stay indoors between 8:07 am and 8:10 am, with pillows over their heads. If people are worried enough, there will be regular exoduses elsewhere from danger zones. There’ll even be Safe Spaces where no asteroids are ever predicted to impact.

In 20 or 30 years time, the whole world will probably be in the grip of a Great Asteroid Panic, which will rival and probably surpass our current Secondhand Smoke Panic and Global Warming Panic. Governments will be pumping trillions of dollars into asteroid science and Asteroid Control. Everyone will have computer apps like my simulation model, which will show them the daily impacts of rocks down to the size of 1 metre in diameter (or even smaller) all over the world.

And there’ll be helmet-wearing Asteroid Threat Alarmists arguing furiously with Asteroid Threat Denialists that There’s No Safe Diameter Of Asteroid. And there’ll be devotees of particular asteroids, like 99942 Apophis, with a diameter of 370 metres, and due to make a close approach to the Earth in 2029.

There was a reason that the Ancients worshipped sky gods like Jupiter and Mars and Venus. They were powerless in the face of them, particularly when they came too close, and hurled thunderbolts from the sky.

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13 Responses to Close Approach of Asteroid 2012 TC4

  1. Emily says:

    there will be warnings broadcast each day telling people in one city or other to stay indoors between 8:07 am and 8:10 am, with pillows over their heads.

    This reminds me that I was watching the news this morning and the weather woman said “If you hear thunder, you need to run indoors as lighting could strike in your location!” :)

  2. slugbop007 says:

    Sorry for being off topic today. Was reading about Tonka beans and then stumbled upon this essay on Ingmar Bergman.

    “It is not my dream, but someone else’s, that I have to participate in”, laments a character in Bergman’s subtle anti-war film Shame (1968).

    This sums up our dilemna with the projected neuroses and personal insecurities of Tobacco Control freaks and other social control freaks .

    Tonka Beans: By the 1940s, artificial coumarin was really taking off. As one of the first synthetic additives, it was dirt cheap. It was widely used in place of natural vanilla, added to chocolate, sweets and cocktail bitters, vanilla essence and even soft drinks. It swiftly became a staple ingredient in tobacco and lent its complex aroma to the perfume industry.

    Even if fancy restaurants aren’t your scene, there’s a good chance you’re being exposed from other sources. It’s still perfectly legal to add coumarin to tobacco and cosmetics, though it’s easily absorbed through the skin and the fragile lining of the lungs. The chemical is used copiously in detergents, shower gels, hand soaps and deodorants and blockbuster scents such as Coco Mademoiselle (Chanel) and Joop! Homme. It’s even found its way into e-cigarettes.

  3. Yvonne says:

    You’d know more about this than us non-stargazers

    • Rhys says:

      Ouch. Haven’t looked at the videos yet, but…I do know a thing or two about ancient and medieval astrology, and Nibiru is a concept out of the ancient stuff. It’s when Jupiter splits the sky. To try to make this slightly more comprehensible, when Jupiter is at its zenith, at night, and roughly opposite to the sun. It’s Babylonian, and the passage it comes from is a bear to try to translate sensibly, but that’s what I make of it.

      There’s a bit of wiki on it, which seems to confuse more, but here it is:

      How this got turned into Planet X, I know not.

  4. slugbop007 says:

    I just stumbled upon this article on the failure of plain packaging:


  5. C.F. Apollyon says:

    I have a question regarding your simulation model as it pertains to mass…after impact.

    Your arc shows two ins and two outs during October if I am reading that correctly?

    I’m just thinking on the universal scale with respect to mass and motion as it pertains to rest and resting. Meaning, a rock that hit Earth/Terra from elsewhere could sit there for a million years, then move on with little to no indication from a scientific standpoint as to how. Meaning the rock may appear to just…levitate, then haul ass away at great or slow speed. Might explain some of these bodies like Pluto, moons, meteorites, comets, etc., and why they behave as they behave sometimes. Especially as these things relate to that elusive gravity element that seem to operate outside and/or along with magnetism.

    Just thinking out loud a bit with respect to time, and how and why carbon dating fails. Regional/localized energies may have something to do with that, especially when these energies are removed from their contextual origins/sources.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Your arc shows two ins and two outs

      Which arc are you talking about? There are no impacts with this simulation. 2012 TC4 and its companions all miss the Earth. The b28 trajectory that seems to go through the Earth is actually passing under it.

      • C.F. Apollyon says:

        It crosses Earth’s orbital plane twice. Both are in and out, they are simply reversed and/or reversible. And your simulation made an impact on me, but levity aside, the definitions of “impact and collision” are prolly gonna require some attention as to contextual meaning(s). I’m thinking pendulums with respect to some of these impacts/collisions, but more along the lines of a piston due to some of the energies and mass that have prolly been ignored, overlooked, are relegated to the realm of negligible. I just find “negligible” a curious thought with respect to global modeling.

        I guess I see some intersecting parabolas that I don’t understand/don’t know how to describe. Bend a pipe-cleaner around 2012 TC4 to where only the bend itself contacts 2012 TC4, and each end extends to form an open ended triangle. Do the same with another pipecleaner around Earth. Is it possible that these two objects could tangle and interact in a way that is completely contrary to Newtonian laws, simply because these laws are not taking into account a long enough timeline to fully qualify this particular interaction.
        Meaning: Not only can a celestial body encroach on Earth, float down to and just above it’s surface, then return to an outbound trajectory…it can do this several times, and reverse course several times in such a way that appears as the same action inverted. (the object is traveling clockwise, and suddenly begins traveling counter-clockwise in order to maintain a fixed point in space) This fixed point is going to be quite distant from Earth, but this will allow us to better plot/chart this point, which will be our interloper’s final destination based on current entanglements.

        • Frank Davis says:

          We’re looking down onto the orbital plane. And 2012 TC4 only crosses the plane once. It crosses the orbit twice, once in October, next in December.

          interact in a way that is completely contrary to Newtonian laws

          Newtonian laws are the only ones I know.

  6. slugbop007 says:

    Do any of you check the Worldometer occasionally? It is a realtime, up to the second account of births, deaths and the whole ball of wax.


    • Joe L. says:

      Interesting site, but I don’t believe the numbers are accurate, nor based off real-time data. The values increment/decrement at consistent rates. It appears they are basing the speed of each counter off the most recent rates provided by “experts.” For instance, they state the “number of cigarettes smoked” and “number of deaths ’caused’ by smoking” figures are based off data provided by the WHO.

  7. Joe L. says:

    This is more on-topic with yesterday’s post about controllers and the controlled. I just found this interesting article written by psychologist Bruce Levine in 2012 (excerpt below):

    Why Anti-Authoritarians are Diagnosed as Mentally Ill

    In my career as a psychologist, I have talked with hundreds of people previously diagnosed by other professionals with oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, anxiety disorder and other psychiatric illnesses, and I am struck by (1) how many of those diagnosed are essentially anti-authoritarians, and (2) how those professionals who have diagnosed them are not.

    Anti-authoritarians question whether an authority is a legitimate one before taking that authority seriously. Evaluating the legitimacy of authorities includes assessing whether or not authorities actually know what they are talking about, are honest, and care about those people who are respecting their authority. And when anti-authoritarians assess an authority to be illegitimate, they challenge and resist that authority—sometimes aggressively and sometimes passive-aggressively, sometimes wisely and sometimes not.

    Some activists lament how few anti-authoritarians there appear to be in the United States. One reason could be that many natural anti-authoritarians are now psychopathologized and medicated before they achieve political consciousness of society’s most oppressive authorities.

  8. Pingback: Social Isolation Kills | Frank Davis

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