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Asteroid To Make Close Earth Flyby In March

First Posted: Feb 03, 2016 09:23 AM EST

A small asteroid will pass by close to Earth on March 5 at a distance of 9 million miles (14 million km) to about 11,000 miles (17,000 km). Two years ago, asteroid 2013 TX68 flew past Earth at a distance of about 1.3 million miles (2 million km) and now it is scheduled to do the same in a few weeks, according to a NASA announcement.

Scientists at NASA's Center for NEO Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California claimed that the space rock does not pose any threat to Earth during its next flyby. However, they believe that this asteroid could have an impact in future flybys in 2017, 2046 and 2097, where the odds are no more than 1-in-250-million or even lower.

"The possibilities of collision on any of the three future flyby dates are far too small to be of any real concern," Paul Chodas, manager of CNEOS, said in a news release. "I fully expect any future observations to reduce the probability even more."

Asteroid 2013 TX68 is about 100 feet (30 m) in diameter and it was discovered by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey on Oct. 6, 2013, while it heading in Earth's direction. Asteroid 2013 TX68 was tracked for three days, where it passed into the daytime sky, however, it could no longer be observed. Since 2013 TX68 was not observed for a while, it is difficult for scientists to determine its orbit around the sun. However, they do know that this asteroid will not impact Earth during its March flyby.

"This asteroid's orbit is quite uncertain, and it will be hard to predict where to look for it," said Chodas said. "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."

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