NASA says close call from asteroid no cause for concern

Updated 10/18/13 at 6pm ET

NASA says a big asteroid that whizzed by Earth last month before it was noticed will return much closer in another 19 years. Astronomers say it's probably nothing to worry about -- but they're not 100 percent sure.

NASA Near-Earth Object program manager Donald Yeomans estimated there's a 1 in 63,000 chance that the 1,300-foot asteroid will hit Earth when it comes back on Aug. 26, 2032. "To put it another way, that puts the current probability of no impact in 2032 at about 99.998 percent," he said in a statement.

The asteroid, called 2013 TV135, is one of about 10,332 near-Earth objects that have been discovered. It was spotted by astronomers in Ukraine on Oct. 8. Nearly a month earlier, on Sept. 16, it had passed within 4.2 million miles of Earth.

People look at what scientists believe to be a chunk of the Chelyabinsk meteor, recovered from Chebarkul Lake near Chelyabinsk, about 930 miles east of Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013.
AP Photo/Alexander Firsov

This asteroid is much larger than the one that struck Chelyabinsk, Russia, last February, causing considerable damage. The Russian meteorite was believed to be about 60-feet wide before it hit the atmosphere and shattered into smaller pieces. The biggest chunk found so far was dredged up from the bottom of a lake earlier this week, and weight in at 1,256 pounds.

As big as 2013 TV135 is, it's not nearly as large as the one believed to have caused the dinosaur extinction.

NASA posted the statement as a "reality check" about the asteroid in response to some media reports.

Yeomans said that as astronomers observe and track it better, they will likely calculate that it has no chance of hitting Earth the next time around.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story, from the Associated Press, put the chance of the asteroid striking Earth at 1 in 48,000.

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