Aircraft-Carrier Sized Asteroid To Pass Earth

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Head's up! Earth is about to get a very close visitor. Here's KCPQ with the story.

"An asteroid is passing by Earth next month and it's a big one. NASA says it's about 1300 feet across and is travelling at almost 31,000 miles an hour. It's passing on November 8 within 201,000 miles of Earth. Now that is 15% closer than the moon. The last time an asteroid of this size passed so close to Earth was back in 1976."

The asteroid, called YU55, is the size of an aircraft carrier. calls it a "veritable mini-world" and says an object that big getting that close ought to catch our attention.

"Its upcoming flyby is another wake-up call -- an express mail reminder that humanity resides on a sitting duck of a planet."

Rumors have circulated about the destructive power of YU55 for months. A direct impact from the asteroid would leave behind a 1500-foot crater.

But Discover Magazine's Phil Plait says there's no reason to think that will happen any time soon.

"It's what's called a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid because its orbit intersects ours, but observations have shown it won't be a danger to Earth for at least a century, and probably much more. There's been some scare-mongering about it over the past few months, but as usual that's all baloney. This rock will pass us safely, sailing on into the night."

The flyby is an important occasion for astronomers. It's the first time an asteroid this size will pass close to Earth where scientists knew about it beforehand. A writer for IB Times says NASA is pulling out the big guns.

"...scientists are preparing an extensive campaign of radar, visual and infrared observations ... The powerful Goldstone Observatory radio dishes in Mojave, Calif. ... will be deployed as part of radar scanning, including the huge Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. In addition, there are near-infrared observations campaigns planned..."

The next time a rock this size will buzz Earth will be 2028.

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