Asteroid TX68 will zip past Earth on March 5, and there’s a possibility that the distance that will separate it from our planet will be of just 11,000 miles.
The space rock known as 2013 TX68 is currently flying at a velocity of around 32,212 miles per hour, and its diameter is relatively small, having been estimated somewhere between 69 and 171 feet.
It was first spotted on October 6, 2013, during NASA’s Catalina Sky Survey, at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson.
At the time, the asteroid had been flying at a distance of around 1 million miles away from Earth, being therefore roughly 4 times farther than our planet’s natural satellite.
The observation time frame was of just 3 days, after which the asteroid became too dim in the sky for scientists to still be able to follow its trajectory.
As a result, it’s now almost impossible to calculate its future orbits. For instance, researchers admit that, during the March 5 flyby, TX68 could pass Earth at a distance of 11,000 miles.
This would correspond to a mere 5% of the distance between our planet and the moon, and would bring the asteroid twice as close to us as communications satellites that currently orbit Earth.
Alternatively, the space object might fly at a comfortable distance of 9 million miles, or remain around 311,000 miles away from Earth, the margin of error being obviously extremely high.
Even though it can’t be reliably determined just how close TX68 will get to our planet, experts are still confident that there is no significant risk of impact in the near future.
According to Paul Chodas, manager of the Near Earth Object Program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), even after the March 5 close approach, the likelihood that the asteroid’s orbit will intersect with that of our planet during the following 3 flybys will remain extremely low.
For instance, on September 28, 2017 there will be 260 million probability that TX68 will collide with Earth. Similarly, on September 27, 2046 the odds will be of 1 in 8.3 billion, while on October 27, 2097 the chances that an impact will occur are expected to be of 1 in 5.3 billion.
Overall, the possibility that this Near-Earth object will fall on our planet during one of these three approaches is of just 1 in 244 million.
There is a likelihood that in the long run TX68 may alter its orbit under the influence of gravitational forces exerted by our planet or the moon, after flying so close to them.
However, even if a collision were to happen, damage to Earth wouldn’t be significant, given the fact that the asteroid doesn’t have such sizable proportions after all.
As a result, researchers believe that people shouldn’t be alarmed in any way regarding the upcoming March 5 close encounter with TX68, or even about the other events of this kind that will occur afterwards.
Instead, amateur astronomers should take advantage of this flyby in order to observe the asteroid, given that there’s a chance it will fly extremely close to Earth, being therefore easily noticeable using a wide-field telescope.
Image Source: Flickr