An asteroid will whizz past Earth next month, and NASA thinks it might pass so close to our planet that earthlings might get a chance to see it!
According to Discovery, asteroid 2013 TX68, which is believed to be 100 feet in diameter, will zoom past earth exactly a month from today, on March 5. Although our planet is no stranger to witnessing asteroids crossing paths with it, this asteroid commands its fair share of intrigue.
Scientists charting out the path of asteroid 2013 TX68 estimate that it will whizz past Earth at a mere distance 11,000 miles — less than 5 percent of moon’s distance from earth — which could mean that stargazers might get a great opportunity to see the heavenly object when it brushes past our planet.
However, scientists also confirmed that the estimated distance could change upon the asteroid’s arrival but refuted claims that the asteroid will crash into Earth.
“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,” the statement by NASA read.
Having said that, there is a little catch. Although researchers have been studying asteroid 2013 TX68 for well over two years now and have not categorized it under the “potentially dangerous asteroids” bracket, it is expected to pass earth again in September 2017, and there is a tiny chance that it might make an impact on our planet then.
To put the asteroid’s size into context, scientists believe the near-Earth object that exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February 2013, damaging buildings and injuring more than 1,000 people, measured approximately 65 feet in diameter, a little over the size of asteroid 2013 TX68.
If 2013 TX68 was to make an impact against earth, Space.com reports, it could cause more than twice the damage than Chelyabinsk suffered.
However, the chances of 2013 TX68 crashing against earth remain extremely slim — a one in 250 million chance — so you do not need to fret just yet.
Paul Chodas, the manager of the Center for NEO Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said 2013 TX68 will zoom past earth a total of four times during this century, including its detour next month, but confirmed that earthlings need not worry about an asteroid-induced apocalypse anytime soon.
“The possibilities of collision on any of the three future flyby dates are far too small to be of any real concern,” Chodas said. “[We] fully expect any future observations to reduce the probability even more.”
Asteroid 2013 TX68 last crossed earth in 2013 but did so at a distance of 1.3 million miles.
Scientists predict that if asteroid 2013 TX68 follows its expected trajectory, it will easily be visible through a telescope. But it could as easily spin further out, and if that was to happen, even the most powerful telescopes on our planet might fail to get a glimpse.
“This asteroid’s orbit is quite uncertain, and it will be hard to predict where to look for it,” Chodas said, before adding that NASA’s telescopes will be well-placed to look for it when it crosses earth in March.
However, more details about the asteroid’s arrival can only be released once NASA has fully figured out which trajectory it might take, but all things considered, space enthusiasts might already be looking one month ahead.
[Image via Shutterstock]