March 3, 2016 – There’s been some agitated chatter about just how close the speeding rock will get.
“What we know for sure is that it will not collide,” said Sean Marshall, a Cornell University doctoral candidate who observes near-Earth asteroids. “So don’t panic.”
The size of 2013 TX68 is estimated to be 100 feet in diameter, about the size of a large yacht. This makes it slightly larger than the speeding rock that in 2013 exploded over the Russian city Chelyabinsk, damaging hundreds of buildings and injuring at least 1,500 people, mainly as windows shattered.
Observations of asteroid 2013 TX68 have been obtained, refining its orbital path and moving the date of the asteroid’s Earth flyby from March 5 to March 8.
The exact time and distance of the closest approach will not be known until after the encounter. Mr. Marshall said Tuesday that 2013 TX68 could zip through Earth’s ring of geostationary satellites — which orbit at a height of 22,300 miles — or travel as far away as 40 times the distance to the moon.
Marco Micheli of the European Space Agency’s NEO Coordination Centre (NEOCC/SpaceDys) in Frascati, Italy, is the astronomer who identified the object in the archived images, measured its position, and provided these observations to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Discovered? or the arcived photo taken on October 6, 2013, by the Catalina Sky Survey, asteroid 2013 TX68’s orbit is still quite uncertain, and it will be hard to predict where to look for. “There is a chance it will be picked up by asteroid search telescopes when it safely flies past us, providing us with data to more precisely define its orbit around the Sun,” said Paul Chodas of the NASA’s Center for NEO Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Article continues below ad..
CNEOS’s new prediction for 2013 TX68 is that it will fly by roughly 3 million miles (5 million kilometers) from our planet. There is still a chance that it could pass closer, but certainly no closer than 15,000 miles (24,000 kilometers) above Earth’s surface. The new observations also better constrain the path of 2013 TX68 in future years; CNEOS has said that 2013 TX68 cannot impact Earth over the next century but, they still won’t really know until it has safely passed by earth.
NASA’s calculations last month put the flyby at around March 8. 2013 TX68 is not on the agency’s list of potentially hazardous asteroids, which come closest to Earth and are big enough to survive atmospheric re-entry and cause damage on a regional scale. Their diameters are greater than 330 feet, or about 100 meters.
But the extraterrestrial rock might eventually make the hazard list if new observations made during this month’s close pass reveal its diameter to be larger than expected.
“It’s possible but unlikely,” Mr. Marshall said of the larger size in an interview. “Still, you wouldn’t want to be there if it hit. It could still wipe out a city.”