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Another Asteroid to Pass by Earth, This One Within 600K Miles

Friday, 08 Mar 2013 04:51 PM

By Michael Mullins

Are asteroid fly-bys increasing or are we just paying more attention to them? In any case, Earth will have another relatively close encounter with an asteroid on Saturday.

Named 2013 ET and approximately as wide as a city block, this asteroid will pass our planet at a distance of 600,000 miles, reported Space.com. Last Monday, a much smaller 33-foot-wide asteroid, named 2013 EC, zipped by only 230,000 miles away.

Do you recall 2012 DA14? On Feb. 15 it passed the Earth's surface by only about 17,000 miles, which is 5,000 miles below the altitude that most major weather and communications satellites operate.

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"No matter how many asteroids approach us, even within a few days, the interest for these intriguing cosmic objects is always very high," said Gianluca Masi, an astrophysicist who founded Virtual Telescope.

"I believe that these close approaches should be used to increase in the public a correct perception of the real situation, to avoid confusion and false alarms," he told Space.com.

Saturday's asteroid 2013 ET was discovered March 3 by the Catalina Sky Survey, which operates out of the University of Arizona.

On Saturday afternoon, the online Slooh Space Camera, a virtual telescope, will provide space enthusiasts with the opportunity to view the asteroid, considering it is not bright enough to be viewed by amateur telescopes or binoculars.

"We only have a short viewing window of an hour or so from our Canary Islands observatory on March 9, but we wanted to give the general public a front row seat to witness this new asteroid in real time as it passes by Earth," Slooh president Patrick Paolucci said.

"The recent flurry of asteroidal close calls and near misses, including the double whammy of DA14 and the Siberian meteor on Feb. 15, is starting to make our region of space seem like a video game or pinball contest," astronomer Bob Berman, columnist and contributing editor of Astronomy magazine, told Space.com.

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"This latest interloper arrives just as serious debates are unfolding as to the obvious need for more and better monitoring of potentially hazardous asteroids crossing our orbit — and even whether we should develop a 'deflection' system," Berman added.

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