On October 12, an asteroid will pass near Earth in a shot of an astronomical stone from the surface of the Earth, passing us a distance of about 4,200 miles. And NASA take this opportunity to test some of their planetary defense systems.

2012 TC4 is a small asteroid, measuring between 30 and 10 feet wide. It is only slightly larger than the Chelyabinsk meteorite that hit Russia in February 2013. During this limited approach, there is no risk to the planet:

“We know the 2012 TC4 orbit well enough to be sure it will not hit the Earth,” said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, said earlier this month.

The asteroid, however, has NASA the opportunity to test some of the systems it has in place to protect the planet from near-Earthly dangerous objects.

“Scientists have always appreciated knowing when an asteroid will make a close approach and safely move to Earth, as they can prepare to gather data to characterize and learn everything they can about it,” said Michael Kelley, who carried observations in 2012 , Said in a statement TC4.

“This time adding another level of effort, using this stolen asteroid to test the global asteroid detection and tracking network, evaluate our ability to work together in response to the quest for a real real asteroid threat.”

Currently used by NASA’s planetary defense systems focus on observation and tracking through a network of observatories. Testing your skills on the asteroid near Earth means scientists can refine their techniques and better understand the strengths and limitations of their capabilities.

At present, the size of 2012 TC4 – and the distance that will happen on Earth – is little restriction. While the nearest distance that is ours is 4 200 000, it could reach up to 170 000 000, or about two thirds of the distance between Earth and the Moon.

Vishnu Reddy of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory said: “This effort will exert the entire system, to include initial observations and monitoring, precise orbit determination and international communications.”

Scientists plan to use telescopes to determine the asteroid’s path. “This is the perfect target for this type of exercise, because although we know of the 2012 TC4 orbit well enough to be absolutely sure, it will not have any impact on Earth, we have not yet established its exact path,” said M. Chodas .

“It will be up to the observatories to fix on the asteroid as and when they approach and work together to obtain follow-up observations [which] make possible asteroid orbit determinations.”

In addition to observation to monitor asteroid networks, NASA is also working to develop more direct approaches to planetary defense, including deviance. In June, the space agency announced its first asteroid diversion mission: the double asteroid shift (DART) has entered the next design phase.