Asteroid 2013 TX68 to pass close to Earth on March 8


Asteroid 2013 TX68, with an estimated size of 30 meters (100 feet), is expected to make a close flyby of Earth around 00:06 UTC on March 8, 2016. 

Discovered 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).

Initially, 2013 TX68 was predicted to flyby Earth on March 5. However, after additional observations and refinement of its orbital path on February 25, 2016, the date was moved to March 8. CNEOS predicts the asteroid will pass roughly 5 million km (3 million miles) from Earth with a relative velocity of 15.32 km/s. "There is still a chance it could pass closer, but certainly no closer than 24 000 km (15 000 miles) above Earth's surface," CNEOS said.

By comparison, the Chelyabinsk asteroid that exploded over Russia three years ago was approximately 20 meters (65 feet) wide. If an asteroid the size of 2013 TX68 were to enter Earth's atmosphere, it would likely produce an air burst with about twice the energy of the Chelyabinsk event, according to the JPL.

This graphic depicts the orbit of asteroid 2013 TX68. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

New observations of 2013 TX68 better constrained the path of the asteroid in future years, and CNEOS has determined that it cannot impact Earth over the next century.

Its next flyby is expected on September 18, 2056.

Featured image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech


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