On November 8, Earth is going to have a close call with a huge asteroid, one that, if it were to hit, could easily destroy a major city. Fortunately, the asteroid, named 2005 YU55, is going to miss our planet, but will still come close enough to pass within the Moon’s orbit a mere 240,000 miles out in space. On the scale of the cosmos, that is a very close shave.
For people who are even slightly familiar with the solar system, it is common knowledge that Earth is in the middle of a cosmic shooting gallery with millions upon millions of asteroids constantly hurtling through the solar system at almost unimaginable speeds. Fortunately, though, the asteroid 2005 YU55 will pass Earth with about 200,000 miles to spare, thus posing no threat to our world.
As for asteroids themselves, most lie in the Main Asteroid Belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter. In the Early solar system, dust was everywhere. In time, dust particles started colliding and clumping together. As the groups of gravitationally-bound space debris got bigger and bigger, they attracted most of the loose space debris in the solar system to form the planets. However, for reasons unknown, the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter never coalesced into a planet, thus resulting in the Asteroid Belt. Occasionally, asteroids collide, sending both out of the belt and flying on random trajectories through space, which is almost certainly what happened with YU2005, which will make its close pass in about 2 weeks.
Asteroid YU2005 is about 1,300 feet, or about a quarter mile, wide. In fact, in making a passage within the Moon’s orbit, it will be the largest asteroid to make such a close pass until 2028, unless of course a bigger one is discovered in the intervening time. As for beyond November, Don Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, said that YU2005 will pose no threat for at least 100 years, so consider yourself safe.
Still, the asteroid will be coming close enough to warrant intense study from scientists, who plan to use both radar and optical imaging to try and get a close look at the space rock. As for amateur observers, keep an eye on the weather forecast as the asteroid could reach 11th magnitude for a period of several hours before fading back into the darkness of space. Find a clear sky clockand see if it will be clear near you on the big night.
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