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Asteroid Threats To Earth Continue Well After 2013 TX68 Passes Our Home Planet

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Asteroid 2013 TX68 will make a close approach to Earth in March 2016, and the space rock is predicted to have a small chance of striking our home world in 2017.

The odds of this occurring are small — about one in 250 million. However, a myriad of asteroids of various sizes cross the Earth's orbit, and our planet is due for several close-encounters of the asteroid kind in the near future.

The TX68 asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth on March 5, although astronomers are still uncertain how close it will come to striking our planet. Estimates range from 11,000 to 9 million miles, but uncertainty will narrow as the object comes closer to Earth.

"Our computations reveal a still quite large uncertainty so that more observations are desirable to improve the orbital elements," the Sormano Astronomical Observatory said.

There is no chance this object will strike Earth during this pass, although a small chance of an impact may occur on September 2017. Astronomers believe the object is about 100 feet in diameter, and if the rocky body were to collide with Earth, it would likely explode with a force of about twice that was seen over Chelyabinsk, Russia, which injured 1,500 people.

Although just between 26 and 39 feet in diameter, asteroid 2012 TC4 could come within 7,435 miles of Earth on Oct.12, 2017. Once again, however, the uncertainty in its orbit is significant, and the body is likely to miss our home world by 147,900 miles during that close approach.

This may sound like a large distance but it is just 63 percent of the average distance between the Earth and Moon.

Another close encounter coming for the Earth will occur on April 14, 2026, when asteroid 2013 GM3 passes as close as 5,343 miles from our home planet. That is approximately the distance between Nairobi, Kenya and Hong Kong. However, closest approach is more likely to be around 46,477 miles from our world. Judging by its brightness, astronomers estimate the object is about 98 feet in diameter, compared to the 65-foot diameter of the object which exploded over Russia.

Asteroid 2001 WN5 will pass Earth at a distance between 148,484 and 154,061 miles on June 26, 2028. This massive rocky body, between 1,830 and 4,133 feet across, was first seen by astronomers on November 20, 2001.

The following year will witness the close approach of (99942) Apophis. This is one of the larger asteroids to pass the Earth in the coming decades, stretching up to 1,066 feet from side to side. On April 13, 2029, this extraterrestrial mountain will pass our home world, missing us by less than 20,000 miles — roughly the diameter of the Earth around the equator.

"On an average of every several hundred thousand years or so, asteroids larger than a kilometer could cause global disasters. In this case, the impact debris would spread throughout the Earth's atmosphere so that plant life would suffer from acid rain, partial blocking of sunlight, and from the firestorms resulting from heated impact debris raining back down upon the Earth's surface," NASA reports.

Although none of these bodies are likely to strike the Earth in the coming years, many other bodies are still lurking in the darkness of space, and could still strike our planet. Astronomers around the world, both professional and amateurs, are currently carrying out searches for other bodies which could, one day, impact the Earth.

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