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Asteroid 2013 TX69 to safely pass Earth on March 5

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2013 TX68, the small asteroid that flew by our planet two years ago is now coming back again for another flyby on March 5, 2016. This time, the asteroid might make a much closer pass though still at a safe distance.

Two years ago, 2013 TX68 flew by Earth at a distance of approximately 2 million km (1.3 million miles). In the next couple of weeks, the asteroid could approach us at a distance anywhere in the range between 14 million km (9 million miles) and 17 000 km (11 000 miles).

This large variation in the possible closest approach distance is due to the wide range of possible trajectories for this object because it was tracked for only a short time period after it has been discovered.

Graphic indicates the cloud of possible locations asteroid 2013 TX68 will be in at the time of its closest approach to Earth during its safe flyby of our planet on March 5. The nearest point in this graphic above Earth represents the very closest the asteroid could possibly come – which is no closer than 17 000 km (11 000 miles). On the far left, a point indicates the very farthest out the asteroid could be when it flies past – about  14 million km (9 million miles). With additional observations, scientists can typically recalculate and refine the known orbit of an asteroid, reducing the size and quantity of the cloud of potential locations during time of closest approach. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

According to NASA's Center for NEO Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, there are no chances for this asteroid to impact Earth during the coming flyby. During its next flyby, calculated for September 28, 2017, the chances are as low as 1 in 250 million while the next two flybys, expected in 2046 and 2097 have even smaller impact probability.

"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," said Paul Chodas, manager of CNEOS.

Asteroid 2013 TX69 is approximately 30 m (100 feet) in diameter. If an asteroid of this size entered Earth's atmosphere, it would most likely produce an air burst with about twice the energy of the Chelyabinsk event that occurred three years ago in Russia. The asteroid, 20 m wide (65 feet), broke up in the atmosphere on that occasion.

Asteroid 2013 TX68 orbit diagram on February 4, 2016. Image credit: NASA

Asteroid 2013 TX68 orbit diagram for March 5, 2016 at the closest approach. Image credit: NASA

The object was discovered on October 6, 2013, during NASA's Catalina Sky Survey, while it approached our planet on the nighttime side. The asteroid was tracked for only three days before entering the daytime sky where it was no longer visible. Because of the too short tracking period, its exact orbit around the Sun cannot be predicted yet, but the scientists are sure it cannot pose any threat to our planet during the coming flyby.

"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," said Chodas.

Featured image: Graphic indicates the cloud of possible locations asteroid 2013 TX68 will be in at the time of its closest approach to Earth during its safe flyby of our planet on March 5. The nearest point in this graphic above Earth represents the very closest the asteroid could possibly come – which is no closer than 17 000 km (11 000 miles). On the far left, a point indicates the very farthest out the asteroid could be when it flies past – about  14 million km (9 million miles). With additional observations, scientists can typically recalculate and refine the known orbit of an asteroid, reducing the size and quantity of the cloud of potential locations during the time of closest approach. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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