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Earth-buzzing asteroid spotted ahead of its October arrival

Scientists are excited about studying the close encounter with the asteroid, which will come within 27,300 miles of us.

Asteroid 2012 TC4 is surrounded by a blue circle in this image from the European Southern Observatory.

ESO/ESA NEOCC/O. Hainaut (ESO), M. Micheli (ESA) & D. Koschny (ESA)

Mark your calendar for Oct. 12. That's when asteroid 2012 TC4 will slip past Earth at an expected distance of around 27,300 miles (44,000 kilometers). The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile recently caught sight of the asteroid, which could be up to 100 feet (30 meters) in size.

NASA is leading a coordinated international campaign to observe TC4In July, NASA suggested the asteroid could squeeze in as close as 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers), but the European Space Agency's latest estimates give us more breathing room.

The closeness of the flyby means scientists will have a chance to study the space rock's composition and get a better idea of its orbital path. Astronomers first spotted the asteroid in 2012, but weren't able to track it over the last five years. 

"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. That meteor famously exploded in the sky over Russia in 2013. But don't worry. This asteroid is far enough away to be safe, but close enough to give scientists a lot to look at.