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Asteroid Will Come Scarily Close To Earth This Week

(REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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An asteroid could come unsettlingly close to Earth Tuesday.

The small asteroid 2013 TX68 came within 1.3 million miles of Earth two years ago, but could get within 15,000 miles of the planet this week, according to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists. The asteroid could actually pass closer to Earth than many communications satellites and be 16 times closer to Earth than the Moon.

However, the asteroid will likely be a comparatively safe three million miles from Earth, which is outside the orbit of the Moon. The differing estimates for the asteroid’s nearest approach are due to its recent discovery. Astronomers have had only a limited amount of time to track the rock since its discovery in October 2013.

“There is no concern whatsoever regarding this asteroid – unless you were interested in seeing it with a telescope,” Paul Chodas, manager of  NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), wrote in a press release.

Though Earth is safe for now, CNEOS identifies a 1-in-250-million chance the asteroid could impact Earth on Sep. 28, 2017.

“The possibilities of collision on any of the three future flyby dates are far too small to be of any real concern,” Chodas said. “I fully expect any future observations to reduce the probability even more.”

Asteroid 2013 TX68 is estimated to be roughly 100 feet in diameter. The asteroid that broke up in the atmosphere over Russia three years ago and damaged thousands of buildings was only 65 feet in diameter. If an asteroid the size of 2013 TX68 were to enter Earth’s atmosphere, it could produce an air burst with about twice the energy of the Russian event.

NASA officials have stated the asteroid will likely be very dim and difficult to observe due to its distance from Earth.

Though 2013 TX68 likely doesn’t pose a threat to humanity, there are many others which do.

In January, NASA created the anti-asteroid Planetary Defense Coordination Office to defend Earth from impacts which could potentially end humanity.

The new office will aggregate previously American asteroid detection programs such as the Near Earth Asteroid Tracking, the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search, and the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System. The office will also work with international partners such as the Italian Campo Imperatore Near-Earth Object Survey and the Japanese Spaceguard Association.

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