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Aircraft Carrier-Sized Asteroid to Swing by Earth Next Week

Near Miss Asteroid

ARTICLE DATE : November 1, 2011  pcmag.com
By Damon Poeter

Astronomers say an asteroid larger than an aircraft carrier will swing by the Earth on Nov. 8 at a distance that’s closer to us than the Moon. The near-miss asteroid, 2005 YU55, is reportedly the largest object on record to pass this close to us with our foreknowledge.

Asteroid 2005 YU55, which is a quarter of a mile in diameter, will reach a distance of just under 200,000 miles away from Earth early next week—inside the orbit of the moon. The closest the rock will get is 198,000 miles from the surface of the planet, according to Sky and Telescope, a near miss that is expected to occur at 6:28 p.m. ET next Tuesday.

There’s no danger that the asteroid will strike Earth, but Sky and Telescope reports that if it did, it would “deliver a kinetic-energy punch equivalent to several thousand megatons of TNT … the kind of potential threat that outer-space sentries lose sleep over.”

Asteroid 2005 YU55 was discovered, you guessed it, back in 2005 by Robert McMillan at Steward Observatory’s Spacewatch Telescope in Arizona. The likely carbon-rich asteroid has a very round shape as documented in grainy images, and it spins around in a “relatively long” rotation period of 18 to 20 hours, according to the astronomy site.

And this particular asteroid has crossed our path before. The last time 2005 YU55 swung by was in April 2010, but it actually came closer to Earth in 1976 than it will next week, though at the time, nobody observed that passing.

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