NASA scientists report that asteroid 2005 YU55 will make a near earth miss Tuesday Nov. 8, 2011.The scientists will be tracking the asteroid with antennas from the space agencies Deep Space Network at Goldstone, CA. The scientists are calling the near miss by the 1,300 foot wide (400 meter) asteroid as an opportunity of science as instruments on Earth will be able to scan it during it passing.
“Spaceguard” which is NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program discovers objects like this one, then characterizes a subset of them, and then plots their orbits to determine if any of them can be a potential danger to our planet. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington and JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA.The asteroids trajectory is well understood, and is projected to make its closest approach to Earth at 3:28 PM PST on Tuesday, Nov. 8th. At its closest to Earth, the asteroid will be no closer than 201,700 miles, or 324,600 kilometers from the Earth, which is 0.85 the distance from the Earth to the moon. They further estimate that the gravitational influence that will occur from the asteroid will have no discernible effect on anything on our planet, and that includes the tides and tectonic plates. The orbit of 2005 YU55 regularly brings it into the vicinity of the Earth, Venus, and Mars, however, this close encounter in 2011 will be the closest that the rock has come to us in the last 200 years at least.
Scientists will be tracking 2005 YU55 with the Goldstone and Arecibo space antennas to bounce radio waves off of the large boulder and the echoes returned from it will be collected and analyzed. They hope to obtain images from Goldstone as fine as 7 feet per pixel. They hope this will disclose details about the surface features, shape, dimensions, and other physical properties.
The tracking will start at 9:30 AM PDT Nov. 4th, using the massive 70 meter Deep Space Network antenna, and last for around 2 hours. The asteroid will continue to be tracked by the Goldstone antenna for at least four hours a day form Nov. 6 through Nov. 10. More radar observations will also be conducted from the Arecibo Planetary Radar Facility located in Puerto Rico starting on Nov. 8, when it will make it’s closest approach.
In 2010 the Arecibo radar made observations of it and show it to be spherical in shape, slow spinning, with a rotational period of 18 hours. The surface color is darker than charcoal at optical wavelengths, and for those amateur astronomers who wish to take a peek at asteroid 2005 YU55 will need an aperture of 6 inches or larger telescope. 1976 was the last time a space rock of this size came as close to our planet, however, astronomers were unaware of the near miss at the time. The next known near miss of this magnitude will be in the year 2028. So enjoy the asteroid 2005 YU55 near earth miss Tuesday Nov. 8, 2011!