NASA using asteroid's close flyby to test warning network

This image released by the European Southern Observatory on Aug. 10, 2017 shows near Earth asteroid 2012 TC4, the dot at center. The image was made from a composite of 37 individual 50-second exposures, and the background stars and galaxies appear as bright trails. NASA is using the asteroid’s close flyby to test Earth’s warning network for incoming space rocks. The asteroid will pass within about 27,000 miles (43,000 kilometers) of Antarctica early Thursday, Oct. 11, 2017. (Olivier Hainaut (ESO), Marco Micheli (ESA), Detlef Koschny (ESA)/ESO/ESA NEOCC via AP)

NASA is using an asteroid's close flyby to test our warning network for incoming space rocks

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA is using an asteroid's close flyby to test Earth's warning network for incoming space rocks.

The small asteroid will pass within about 27,200 miles (43,800 kilometers) of Antarctica early Thursday.

Program scientist Michael Kelley says that's "pretty close" as these things go. But he stresses there's no chance it will hit us. Future space rocks might, though — thus this first-of-its-kind cosmic fire drill.

Observatories worldwide have been zooming in on the asteroid called 2012 TC4 for weeks to test communication and coordination. Kelley said Wednesday it's gone well. The exercise will continue for another week, as observatories keep tracking the asteroid as it departs Earth's neighborhood.

The asteroid is estimated to measure 45 feet to 100 feet (14 to 30 meters.)

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