As the earth prepares for yet another asteroid flyby, this time by a football field-sized asteroid dubbed “2013 ET,” many people seem concerned that the recent string of asteroids might be related.
According to CNN, the 262-foot-wide meteor will pass by the Earth on Saturday Mar. 8 and can be live streamed either by the Virtual Telescope Project beginning at 2 p.m., or by the Slooh Space Camera beginning at 12:15 pm. The asteroid was reportedly only discovered on Mar. 3, but will pass far enough away that it won’t be visible to most people on earth trying to spot it, according to Space.com.
NASA scientists say that the asteroid doesn’t present any imminent danger to humans, as it won’t come within 604,500 miles of the earth. But according to Slate writer Phil Plait, sky watchers have been increasingly concerned by the number of close scrapes in the past few months.
“When you have a near-miss by an asteroid the size of an office building just hours after a monster meteor rocks Russia which happened just a day before a fireball blazed over California which was just days after reports of a similar event over Cuba…well, it really does seem like the Universe is trying to kill us,” Plait writes. Nevertheless he concludes that the succession of meteorites and asteroid flybys are just “coincidence.”
Last month, when a meteor exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, Russian officials reported injuries to over 1,500 residents. And while astronomers confirmed that a large asteroid named 2012 DA14 which passed by the earth at a record-close distance just a mere few hours later was completely unrelated to the meteor, the two incidents seemed to put people on high-alert.
“It’s an incredible coincidence to have [these events] happening on the same day,” Paul Chodas, of NASA’s near-Earth Object Program said in a press conference shortly after the flyby. “These are rare events and it is incredible to see them happening on the same day.”
On Mar. 4, the earth was buzzed again, this time by the asteroid 2013 EC, which also passed the earth from a relatively far distance away. What’s perhaps most significant about the most recent flybys is that, as the Huffington Post noted, that asteroid along with 2013 ET, was detected in advance, suggesting that scientists’ ability to predict such close encounters is markedly improving.
"That we are finding all these asteroids recently does not mean that we are being visited by more asteroids," Gianluca Masi, an astronomer with the Virtual Telescope Project told the publication. "Just that our ability to detect them has gotten so much better. Our technology has improved a lot over the past decades."
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