As the earth prepares for yet another asteroid flyby, this time by a football field-sized asteroid dubbed “2013 ET,” many seem concerned the recent string of asteroids might be related.
The 262-foot-wide meteor is expected to pass by the Earth on Saturday, March 9, and can be live streamed either by the Virtual Telescope Project beginning at 2 p.m. EST, or by the Slooh Space Camera beginning at 12:15 p.m., CNN says. The asteroid was discovered on March 3, and it will likely pass far enough away that it won’t be visible to most people trying to spot it, Space.com says.
NASA scientists say the asteroid doesn’t present any imminent danger, and it will pass about 604,500 miles way from the Earth. That's about 2 1/2 times the distance from the Earth to the moon.
Slate writer Phil Plait says skywatchers 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, officials reported more than 1,500 residents were injured. While astronomers confirm that a large asteroid named "2012 DA14," which passed by the Earth at a record-close distance mere hours later was completely unrelated to that meteor, the two incidents seemed to put some 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, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif., said at a news conference after the flyby. “These are rare events and it is incredible to see them happening on the same day.”
On March 4, the Earth was buzzed again, this time by an asteroid named "2013 EC," which also passed from a relatively far distance away. Perhaps most significant about the recent flybys, is that, as the Huffington Post notes, "2013 EC", along with "2013 ET," was detected in advance, suggesting that scientists’ ability to predict close encounters has improved.
"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 HuffPost. "Just that our ability to detect them has gotten so much better. Our technology has improved a lot over the past decades."