NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory recently announced that a small asteroid will whiz past Earth for second time in three years, only that this time it would be a lot closer. Scientists said that the tiny space object can get as close to our planet as 11,000 miles, which is 95 percent shorter distance than the distance between Earth and moon.
But the asteroid can also race past our planet from a distance of 9 million miles, researchers noted. Until now, NASA scientists haven’t reached a consensus on the distance because there are far too many probable trajectories for the asteroid. They do know that the flyover will occur on March 5.
NASA’s Center for NEO Studies, which detected the object, said that the chances for it to hit Earth are close to zero. But they do believe that the small object would have 1 in 250 million chances to collide with our planet in September, 2017. The space rock, dubbed 2013 TX68 is slated to zip past Earth again in 2046 and 2097.
Paul Chodas, lead scientist at NASA’s Center for NEO Studies, explained that the chances for a collision to occur during any of the above mentioned flybys are ‘too small.’ He added that more observations could lower the odds of impact even more in the future.
The asteroid is no wider than 100 feet, scientists noted. To put it in context, the Chelyabinsk asteroid which exploded into tiny pieces over Russia in 2013 was 65 feet wide. Scientists believe that if 2013 TX68 manages to enter the atmosphere, the event it would trigger would be twice more powerful than the one in Chelyabinsk.
The space rock was first detected in 2013 by NASA’s Catalina Sky Survey. Back then, astronomers didn’t have the chance to analyze it in detail because it had only been detected three days before it zipped past Earth. This is why, astronomers cannot currently estimate its orbit around the sun but they are certain that the risk of a collision is minimal.
Chodas noted that the object’s trajectory is ‘uncertain,’ so making predictions about its whereabouts is currently impossible. He also said that it would ‘safely fly’ past our planet on March 5. Scientists currently expect the event because they hope that the asteroid could enter the range of asteroid search telescopes so they can collect more data on its real orbit.
NASA posted a list of the next close encounters on Center for NEO Studies’s website.
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