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Asteroid 2005 YU55 Is Passing Closer to Earth Than the Moon


Epoch Times Staff
Created: November 8, 2011 Last Updated: November 23, 2011
Related articles: Science » Space & Astronomy
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Radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 obtained on Nov. 7 at 2:45 p.m. EST. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 obtained on Nov. 7 at 2:45 p.m. EST. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A space rock bigger than an aircraft carrier is currently making its way between our planet and the moon’s orbit, but NASA says there is no cause for concern.

According to online statements from the space agency, the trajectory of asteroid 2005 YU55 is well understood.

It will reach the point of closest approach at 6:28 p.m. EST today, Nov. 8, when it will be no closer than 201,700 miles (324,600 kilometers), or 0.85 the distance from the moon to Earth.

The giant rock is 1,300 feet (400 meters) wide, and is one of approximately 8,500 near-Earth objects that have been cataloged so far.

The last time an asteroid this size came so close to Earth was in 1976, and the next known event will be in 2028.

NASA is already tracking the flyby using its Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, California, with observations from the Arecibo Planetary Radar Facility in Puerto Rico beginning today.

Astronomers hope to collect radar images down to about 7 feet (2 meters) per pixel to study the asteroid’s surface, shape, dimensions, and other physical properties.

2005 YU55 was imaged back in April, 2010 when it was around 1.5 million miles (2.3 million kilometers) away. Although the resolution was low, it was seen to be roughly spherical with a surface darker than charcoal, and spinning slowly with a rotation period of about 18 hours.

The asteroid is following an orbit that regularly brings it close to Earth, and also Mars and Venus. Although this is the closest Earth flyby for at least 200 years, NASA says there is nothing to worry about.

“The gravitational influence of the asteroid will have no detectable effect on anything here on Earth, including our planet’s tides or tectonic plates,” the space agency said in an online statement.

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