No need to panic: 100ft asteroid predicted for close brush with Earth
Published 02/03/2016 | 02:30
Scientists are urging people not to panic after learning a 100ft-wide asteroid could be about to brush by the Earth at a distance close enough to threaten orbiting satellites.
The space rock, named 2013 TX68, is expected to make its nearest approach to Earth early this month.
But the precise timing of its visit and trajectory will not be known until after the event.
The asteroid could shoot past the Earth inside the ring of communications and GPS satellites located in fixed positions 36,000km miles above the equator, say experts.
At the other limit of its predicted path range it could remain as far out as 40 times the distance to the moon.
US scientist Sean Marshall, from Cornell University in New York, who studies near-Earth objects (NEOs) such as comets and asteroids said: "Should this asteroid come closer than the geostationary satellites, it would be a rare occurrence - that only happens about once per decade for large asteroids. What we know for sure is that it will not collide with Earth this month, so do not panic."
He added: "The large uncertainty in TX68's orbit makes it difficult to plan observations in advance, but hopefully it will be seen by some of the automated asteroid survey telescopes.
"However, it is possible that TX68 will be so far from Earth that it will be too faint to be seen. If TX68 is detected this month, that would greatly reduce the uncertainty in its orbit and allow astronomers to calculate its future trajectory much more accurately."
Geostationary satellites are further away than the International Space Station, which orbits at 400km above Earth.