A Small Asteroid Will Pass An Astronomical Hair's Breadth From Earth in March
Projections call for a pass as little as 11,000 miles from Earth ... less than 5 percent of the way to the moon.
Let's say this first: there's a small asteroid that will skim past the Earth in March. It's going to get close, possibly as little as 11,000 miles. But there's not much to worry about.
The exact trajectory of 2013 TX68 hasn't been nailed down. It'll make its closest approach to Earth in March. Tracking on the object hasn't established an exact orbit, so the pass might be 9 million miles away—far past the moon—or it could be 11,000, which is about 4.6 percent of the way to the moon, which is roughly 238,000 miles away.
A 2014 flyby took it within 1.3 million miles of Earth. The object is 100 feet in diameter. As a NASA press release from its new Planetary Defense Coordination Office points out, that's bigger than the 65 foot asteroid that exploded over Russia in 2014. While 2013 TX68 is not expected to come that close to Earth, IF it did, it would explode with two times the intensity of the Chelyabinsk event in Russia. Around 1,491 injuries were reported from that event.
The flyby will give scientists a chance to understand its trajectory a little better. "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," Paul Chodas of NASA's Center for NEO Studies said in the press release.
Of course, we're safe this time, but next time, there's a 1 in 250,000,000 (read, still very, very low, but not impossible) chance it will strike Earth next September 2017....