3News: Asteroid 2005 YU55 Hurtles Towards Earth
- uploaded: Nov 8, 2011
- Hits: 199
Original Post By: SheilaAliens
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"An asteroid that is bigger than an aircraft carrier will dart between the Earth and the moon this week. It will be the closest encounter by such a huge rock in 35 years.
But scientists say not to worry. It won't hit.
"We're extremely confident, 100 percent confident, that this is not a threat," said the manager of NASA's Near Earth Object Program, Don Yeomans. "But it is an opportunity."
The asteroid named 2005 YU55 is being watched by ground antennas as it approaches from the direction of the sun. The last time it came within so-called shouting distance was 200 years ago.
Closest approach will occur at 9:45am on Wednesday NZT when the asteroid passes within 325,000km of Earth. That's closer than the roughly 38,6242km between the Earth and the moon.
The moon will be just under 245,000km from the asteroid at the time of closest approach.
Both the Earth and moon are safe - "this time," said Jay Melosh, professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue University.
If 2005 YU55 were to plough into the home planet, it would blast out a crater four miles across and 520m deep, according to Melosh's calculations. Think a magnitude-7 earthquake and 70-foot-high tsunami waves.
Scientists have been tracking the slowly spinning, spherical, dark-coloured object since its discovery in 2005, and are positive it won't do any damage.
"We know the orbit of this object very well," Yeomans said.
The asteroid stretches a quarter-mile across. Smaller objects come close all the time, Yeomans noted, but nothing this big will have ventured so close since 1976. And nothing this large will again until 2028.
Radar observations from California and Puerto Rico will help scientists ascertain whether the asteroid is pockmarked with craters and holds any water-bearing minerals or even frozen water.
Amateur astronomers would need a 6-inch-or-bigger telescope and know exactly where to look to spot it.
Astronomers consider 2005 YU55 a C-type asteroid - one containing carbon-based materials. "It's not just a whirling rock like most of them," Yeomans said.
Such objects are believed to have brought carbon-based materials and water to the early Earth, planting the seeds for life. The discovery of water-bearing minerals or ice would support that theory, Yeomans said.
This is the type of asteroid that NASA would want to aim for, with astronauts, Yeomans said, especially if frozen water is found. Such asteroids could serve as watering holes and fuelling stations for future explorers, he said."
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