Astronomers may be in for a treat early next month, as asteroid 2013 TX68 may make a close pass to Earth sometime between March 3–8, 2016, making it possible that it will be visible through telescopes. Despite how close it is expected to come to us, NASA doesn’t expect it to hit Earth — this time.
2013 TX68 has an orbit that is extremely hard to pin down: due to it’s dimness and small size, between 21-52 meters (69-171 feet), it was only visible for three days when it was discovered during it’s last pass in 2013. This has left a wide margin of error in NASA’s estimate of 500,000 km (310,685 miles) for how close it will come to the Earth: It may pass as far away as 15 million km (9.3 million mi), or it may come as close as 17,700 km (11,000 miles) — just inside Earth’s ring of GPS satellites. Thankfully, NASA assures us that 2013 TX68 will not hit the Earth, at least this time around.
However, NASA does predict that there is a chance that the same asteroid might strike the Earth on it’s pass on Sept. 28, 2017 — although it only gives the event a 1 in 244 million chance of happening. They’re not too worried about damage being caused on the off chance that this happens, though: Due to 2013 TX68’s small size, it would have to enter Earth’s atmosphere nearly head-on to be able to reach the surface, and it would only dig a crater between 100-600 meters (328–1,886 feet) wide, hardly a civilization-ending event. At any other angle, it would merely explode in the upper atmosphere, in a manner similar to the Chelyabinsk event in 2013.
- By 243_ida.jpg: NASA/JPL derivative work: Chzz ► (243_ida.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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