A house-sized asteroid due to pass Earth in October is now "damn close", the European Space Agency says. For comparison, the distance that geostationary satellites orbit at is roughly 22,000 miles, so TC4 is going to be incredibly close to our planet when it makes its pass.
"We know for sure that there is no possibility for this object to hit the Earth", Detlef Koschny, member of ESA's Near Earth Objects team, reassuring told AFP. "There is no danger whatsoever".
"It's damn close", said Rolf Densing, who heads up the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
The asteroid, dubbed TC4, first flitted past our planet in October 2012 - then at about double the distance before disappearing. October's flyby observations will help scientists predict its trajectory when it swings back by Earth again in a few years.
However, the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, in Chile, has now located the rock and determined its distance.
Not wanting to miss an opportunity when it sails past, researchers are now planning to use the rare chance to test Earth's planetary defense systems - which up until now only focused on early warning detection, not asteroid deflection. It will test the global ability to detect and track near-Earth objects and assess our ability to respond together to an asteroid threat.
In 2013, a meteoroid exploded in Chelyabinsk, central Russian Federation, injuring 1200 people and shattering the windows of nearly 5000 buildings.
"An asteroid of this size entering our atmosphere would have a similar effect to the Chelyabinsk event", the ESA noted in a news release Thursday.
The resulting shockwave blew out the windows of almost 5,000 buildings and injured more than 1,200 people.