Asteroid 2013 TX68, a space rock with highly uncertain trajectory, could pass dangerously close to Earth on March 5, 2016, at a distance of just 11,000 miles (17,000 km), according to NASA scientists.
Doomsday theorists have seized upon the prediction, saying there will be “huge crisis in the spring of 2016.”
Following admission by NASA scientists that the trajectory of the asteroid, estimated at about 100-ft-wide (30 meters), is highly uncertain, doomsday theorists have claimed NASA is concealing the fact — to avoid spreading panic — that the estimate of 11,000 miles for the possible close approach of 2013 TX68 falls “well within the margin of error for impact.”
In other words, NASA is covering up the fact that 2013 TX68 could impact Earth on March 5.
NASA astronomers say that the trajectory of asteroid 2013 TX68, first detected on October 6, 2013, by the Catalina Sky Survey, is very highly uncertain because they were able to track its path in the sky for only three days when it was first detected in 2013. Thus, scientists were unable to collect enough data to accurately plot the asteroid’s trajectory or orbit around the Sun.
This explains why scientists are uncertain about how close to Earth the asteroid will pass. Calculations based on available data indicate that at closest approach to Earth on March 5, 2015, TX68 could pass as far away as 9 million miles (14 million kilometers) or as close as 11,000 miles (17,000 kilometers).
Other calculations suggest it could eventually pass at a relatively comfortable distance of 311,000 miles (approx. 500,000 kilometers), about 1.3 times the distance of Earth from Moon.
“The variation in possible closest approach distances is due to the wide range of possible trajectories for this object, since it was tracked for only a short time after discovery,” according to NASA.
The estimated possible close approach distance of 11,000 miles can be put into perspective with the information that it is closer than Earth’s communication satellites in orbit. The distance is also less than twice the equatorial diameter of the Earth, about 7,926 miles (12,756 kilometers), and more than 20 times closer to Earth than the Moon, about 250,000 miles (405,696 km) from Earth.
Meanwhile, NASA scientists have tried to calm fears, saying that despite the possibility of an incredibly close pass, the asteroid poses no danger to Earth. But the vast difference between 11,000 miles and 9 million miles as possible close approach distances of the asteroid has been seized upon by doomsday theorists who claim that NASA’s knowledge of the trajectory of the space rock is too scanty, and thus the agency’s assurances that the space rock poses no threat could not be reliable.
Rumors circulating in the conspiracy theory blogosphere claim that NASA knows that there is a chance that 2013 TX68 could hit Earth, but the agency is not telling the truth to avoid spreading panic.
David Montaigne, a doomsday theorist, writing on the conspiracy theory website, Beforeitsnews, claims that 2013 TX68 could hit the Atlantic and cause a “tsunami splash.” He claims that the estimated close approach distance of 11,000 – 15,000 miles is “well within the margin of error for impact.”
“I am certain there will be a huge crisis no later than the spring of 2016, which will allow for chaos, collapse, martial law, dictatorship, and the fulfillment of major end times Bible prophecy by mid-2016. I have been assuming that financial collapse would be the major event that starts the collapse — but the effects of a major tsunami hitting all Atlantic coastlines could have a major ‘impact’ too. Keep your eyes on this one — even a close fly-by should be impressive.”
But despite dire warnings from doomsday theorists, astronomers insist that the asteroid will pass safely on March 5, although unnervingly close. NASA also says that the asteroid’s close approach will provide opportunity for scientists to collect sufficient data to plot the orbit of the asteroid in detail against future close approaches.
But data currently available indicates there is an extremely low probability — 1-in-250 million — that it could impact Earth on September 28, 2017, and that subsequent flybys in 2046 and 2097 have even lower chances of impact.
“This asteroid’s orbit is quite uncertain, and it will be hard to predict where to look for it. There is a chance that the asteroid will be picked up by our asteroid search telescopes when it safely flies past us next month, providing us with data to more precisely define its orbit around the sun,” Paul Chodas, manager of NASA NEO Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said.
“There is no possibility that this object could impact Earth during the flyby next month. The possibilities of collision on any of the three future flyby dates are far too small to be of any real concern. I fully expect any future observations to reduce the probability even more,” he added.
An impact by an asteroid the size of 2013 TX68 — 100 feet wide — traveling at more than 32, 0000 miles per hour (51,000 kilometers per hour) could produce a massive airburst twice the energy of the Chelyabinsk event.
The Chelyabinsk meteor, which exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February, 2013, was about 65 feet (20 meters) wide. The airburst it generated caused damage to buildings in more than six Russian cities and injury to about 1,500 people.
Thus, if asteroid 2013 TX68 disintegrates over a densely populated area, tens of thousands of people could be killed instantly.
Regardless of needless conspiracy theory fear-mongering, the close approach of 2013 TX68 highlights, once again, the persisting danger posed by asteroids in our solar system, despite efforts by NASA to calm fears with statements denying that Earth is presently under threat.
Amid fears of an impending catastrophic impact generated last September by doomsday theorists, Chodas issued a statement that “there is no existing evidence that an asteroid or any other celestial object is on a trajectory that will impact Earth. In fact, not a single one of the known objects has any credible chance of hitting our planet over the next century.”
Despite such assurances, it is understood that there could still be unidentified “potentially hazardous asteroids” (PHAs) besides the known 1,600 near-Earth objects (NEOs) already classified as PHAs.
The reality of the threat posed by these space rocks was expressed succinctly by experts who stated that only “blind luck” explains why we have not sustained a major impact in recent decades.
The British physicist, Professor Brian Cox, told the Daily Mail recently that we are at serious risk of being wiped out by presently unidentified PHAs.
According to Cox, “There is an asteroid with our name on it and it will hit us.”
The atmosphere of fear engendered by lingering expectations of doom has allowed conspiracy theories about government cover-up of information about an impending catastrophic impact to flourish online.
According to the latest speculation making the rounds in the conspiracy theory blogosphere, official statements by NASA that Earth is currently under no risk of impact is contradicted by recent evidence of urgency in the implementation of NASA’s worldwide Planetary Defense project.
According to conspiracy theorists, the recent sense of urgency indicates that government is aware of an impending major impact event.
“Why set up this new office and increase the budget if there is no threat to humans from an asteroid impact the next one hundred year.”
But some conspiracy theorists claim that the reason for the intensification of planetary defense project effort is the approach of a mini planetary system including Planet X or Nibiru.
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