04 Nov 2011
Radar image of the asteroid 2005 YU55, taken in April by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico 

Credit:  NASA/Cornell/Arecibo

An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier will zip in between the Earth and the moon on Tuesday November 8th.  This asteroid is called 2005 YU55.  Scientists say it poses no threat the Earth but will be watched by many astronomers around the globe.  The size of the asteroid is around 1300 feet.  It is round and black as coal.

The closest passing will be at 6:28pm EST (2328 GMT) at 201,700 miles, keeping in mind the distance between the Earth and moon on average is about 238,854 miles.

It's the first time since 1976 an object this big has grazed the Earth at this distance.

Astronomers will utilize many telescopes to get us much data on the asteroid as possible, including spectroscopic measurements of the asteroid to measure its composition as well.
This is a fast moving asteroid, but telescopes that are no smaller than 6 inches or about 15 centimeters can try to spot it.

The coordinates for any time can be found at the JPL website: http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/.

Scientist continue to stress that there is no reason for alarm on this one, as it has no chance of hitting the earth or moon at least for the next 100 years.

Lets stop and compare some asteroid events

Date: Feb 4th 2011: The closest approach by an asteroid, which went undetected until it passed, asteroid 2011 CQ1
Distance: 3400 miles(5480km)
Size: 1 meter (~3 feet)
Destructive Power: NA
Speed: NA


Date: Nov 8th 2011
Distance: 240,000 miles
Size: 1300 feet (aircraft carrier size)
Destructive Power: NA
Speed: NA


Date: Dinosaur Asteroid Event (Yucatan Peninsula)
Distance: Struck the earth
Size: 10Km / Crater-180km in diameter
Destructive Power: 100 million megatons
Speed: NA

Imaging from NASA revealed part of the 180 km (112 mile) diameter ring of the crater that likely lead to the killing of the dinosaurs and other species.

Credit: Nasa



Date: 1908 Tunguska Event
Distance: Exploded in lower atmosphere at 28,000 feet
Size: 120 feet across
Destructive Power: 5 to 30 megatons or 1000 x the force of the Hiroshima bomb
Speed: Entered atmosphere at 33,500 mph

As you can see, even an object as small as the one that occurred in Tunguska could be devastating, though we must point out that the size of the crater created also depends on many factors such as the density and material that make up the asteroid itself as well as the speed and angle at which the object enters the atmosphere.  While asteroid impacts may not be as common as tornadoes and other natural disaster events, when they do strike, their destruction could be devastating. More effort needs to be placed into early detection of these objects (NEO, Near Earth Objects), so that adequate time could be utilized to attempt to divert such a rock from striking the Earth.

In terms of diverting an incoming asteroid, there are several ways in which this could occur and here are a few for reference:  Nuclear Weapons, Kinetic Impact, Asteroid gravitational tractor, Ion beam shepherd, focused solar energy, mass driver and conventional rocket.  Read more here.

SOURCE: Space.com, Wikipedia

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