NASA radars are monitoring 2005 YU55, an asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier, as it heads for a Nov. 8th flyby of the Earth-Moon system. There is no danger to our planet. At closest approach on Tuesday at 3:28 pm PST, the 400m-wide space rock will be 324,600 kilometers away, about 85% the distance from Earth to the Moon.
Professional astronomers are eagerly anticipating the flyby as the asteroid will present an exceptionally strong radar target. Powerful transmitters at Goldstone and Arecibo will ping the space rock as it passes by, revealing the asteroid's shape and texture in crisp detail, and pinpointing its orbit for future flyby calculations. A movie from JPL explains:
Asteroids this big have passed by Earth at similar distances many times before, but this is the first time astronomers have known about the flyby in advance. For instance, a similar encounter occurred in 1976 when 2010 XC15 split the distance between Earth and the Moon. Researchers didn't discover that space rock until 24 years later! The Nov. 8, 2011, passage of 2005 YU55 thus represents a rare and valuable opportunity for asteroid research.
Stay tuned for more information about how amateur astronomers might be able to observe 2005 YU55. (SpaceWeather)