Wednesday 9 October 2013

Asteroid 2013 TB6 to pass by the Earth on Wednesday 9 October 2013.

The asteroid 2013 TB6 is expected to pass by the Earth at a distance of 13 140 000 km (34.5 times as distant as the Moon) at about 8.20 pm GMT on Wednesday 9 October. 2013 TB6 is a fairly large object, estimated to be 57-180 m in diameter, and could be potentially quite dangerous if it hit us; a 57 m object would be expected to burn up in the atmosphere with only fragmentary material reaching the ground, but anything over 100 m in diameter does stand a chance of reaching the ground, and a 180 m object could potentially leave a crater over 2.5 km wide, causing devastation over a wide area, and affecting the climate for years to come (though not causing a global extinction event). However while 2013 is on an orbital path that takes it both closer to and further from the Sun than us, its orbit is tilted to the plain of the Solar System, so that it in fact passes 'below' us each time it passes.

The orbit of 2013 TB6 seen from above the plain of the Solar System. JPL Small Body Database Browser.

The orbit of 2013 TB6 seen from a more oblique angle. JPL Small Body Database Browser.

2013 TB6 was discovered on 4 October 2013 by the University of Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The name 2013 TB6 implies it was the 152nd object discovered in the first half of October 2013 (period 2013 T).

The 254 day orbit of 2013 takes in to 0.4 AU from the Sun (40% of the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun and inside the orbit of Mercury) and out to 1.17 AU (17% further away from the Sun than the Earth). It is classed as an Aten Group Asteroid, a body which spends the majority of its time closer to the Sun than the Earth, but which does pass outside our orbit.

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