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100-Foot Asteroid to Buzz Earth Next Month

by Mike Wall, Space.com / / Source: Space.com
Image: Artist's depiction of an asteroid flying close to Earth
Reports that an asteroid will pose a serious threat to Earth on Christmas Eve are unfounded, NASA official said. Here, an artist's depiction of an asteroid flying close to Earth.ESA / P. Carril

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An asteroid as long as a basketball court will give Earth a close shave next month — though scientists aren't sure just how close.

The near-Earth asteroid 2013 TX68, which is thought to be about 100 feet in diameter, will zoom past our planet on March 5. The space rock could come as close as 11,000 miles — less than 5 percent of the distance from Earth to the moon — or stay up to 9 million miles away during the flyby, NASA officials said.

Graphic indicating the cloud of of possible locations for asteroid 2013 TX68 during its closest approach to Earth on March 5.
Graphic indicating the cloud of of possible locations for asteroid 2013 TX68 during its closest approach to Earth on March 5.NASA/JPL-Caltech

There is no danger that 2013 TX68, which was first spotted in October 2013, will collide with Earth on this pass, researchers said. However, there is an extremely slight chance — less than 1 in 250 million — of an impact on Sept. 28, 2017, and even lower odds during flybys in 2046 and 2097.

"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 the Center for NEO Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. "I fully expect any future observations to reduce the probability even more."

Scientists think the near-Earth object that exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February, damaging buildings and injuring more than 1,000 people, measured about 65 feet (20 m) across. If 2013 TX68 or another asteroid of its size were to slam into Earth, it would probably explode in an airburst about twice as energetic as the Chelyabinsk event, NASA officials said.

This is a condensed version of a report from Space.com. Read the full report. Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+.

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