Giant Asteroid Brushes Earth

A massive asteroid will make a rare fly-by on Wednesday, and although it poses no danger of crashing to Earth, US scientists said this week they are eager for a closer look.  "This is not a potentially hazardous asteroid, just a good opportunity to study one," said National Science Foundation astronomer Thomas Statler.

The circular asteroid, named 2005 YU55, is about 400m wide and will come closer than the moon, zipping by at a distance of 325,000km, the US space agency NASAsaid. The time of the nearest flyby is expected to be at 10.38am Wednesday (AEDT). The encounter will be the closest by an asteroid of that size since 2005 YU55 itself snuck by unnoticed in 1976.

A similar event will not happen again until 2028. After that, we'll all get an uncomfortably close look at Apophis, the 300m wide asteroid that Russian scientists say could hit Earth in 2036. Those who want to get a sneak preview of what impending doom may look like will need a telescope. NASA recommends an aperture of at least 15cm.

2005 YU55 is "going to be pretty faint when it flies by", said Scott Fisher, program director of the National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences. "It will not be visible to the naked eye. You will need a telescope that has a mirror at least six inches in size to see it. "To make it even more difficult to observe, it will be moving very quickly across the sky as it passes." 

2005 YU55height: 181px" vspace="9" width="285" />No such trouble for NASA – this time around, they'll catch 2005 YU55 with their Deep Space Network Antenna at Goldstone, California. Several other radar telescopes are set up in North America to catch glimpses of the space rock, Mr Fisher added. Astronomers who have studied the object, part of the C-class of asteroids, say it is very dark, like the colour of charcoal, and quite porous.

(Animation Right: Shows the expected trajectory and approximate closeness of the Asteroid})

It was first discovered in 2005 by Robert McMillan of the Spacewatch Project, a solar-system-scanning group of scientists near Tucson, Arizona. While 2005 YU55 will stay a safe distance away, it is part of a crew of 1262 big asteroids circling the Sun and measuring more than 150m across that NASA classifies as "potentially hazardous."

"We want to study these asteroids so if one does look like it may hit us someday, we'll know what to do about it," Mr Statler said. If we survive Apophis in 2036 – and 1999 RQ36 in 2060 – the asteroid's closest pass is set to take place in 2094, at a distance of 269,000km, according to forecasts.

"The observations will give us a piece of the puzzle, one we don't get many chances to see," said Don Yeomans of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "At one time, we thought these were the asteroids that delivered carbon and other elements to the early Earth, so they are pretty important."  Source: The Telegraph.com

What If It Hit Us? What Then?

We can assess what the effects of an asteroid strike would be by using a uniques 'Impact calculator.' It estimates what would happen if the asteroid, which is a quarter mile in diameter, hit the Earth. The calculator, "Impact: Earth!" allows anyone to calculate potential comet or asteroid damage.Click here to access the asteroid impact calculator.

Users first enter a few parameters, such as the diameter of the approaching object, its density, velocity, angle of entry and where it will hit the Earth. The site then estimates the consequences of its impact, including the atmospheric blast wave, ground shaking, size of tsunami generated, fireball expansion, distribution of debris and size of the crater produced.

Here’s a cool flash-based version that lets you place a crater on a map. Check it out.

The asteroid's coordinates for any given time are available at the JPL Solar System Dynamics website, here: http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/.  

Related Story: University of Colorado astronomer talks real doomsday scenarios

 Watch Video below: With thousands of asteroids, comets and other near-Earth object buzzing by our planet, Jorge Ribas finds out how we can avoid the same fate as the dinosaurs. Source: Discovery

Gilly Dee says:

Hi Dave, chck out the first movie of asteriod 2005YU55
Gilly Dee

Dave says:

Magic stuff. Thanks Gilly

Dave says:

Sounds fantastic Justin. Too bad you couldn't get a clerar shot of them. Unfortuantely being lights in the sky it's hard to  make out any features…we may never know what they were but thanks so much for telliing us about it. Keep looking UP 🙂

brad says:

could we see the asteroid pass by?

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