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article imageHow to spot asteroid 2005 YU55 as it passes on November 8

By JohnThomas Didymus     Nov 7, 2011 in Science
If you are an astronomy enthusiast hoping to catch a glimpse of the asteroid 2005 YU55 as it passes between Earth and orbit of the Moon on Tuesday, with a bit of luck and with the right instrument, you just might be able to satisfy your curiosity.
Asteroid 2005 YU55, the largest asteroid to come so close to the earth in 35 years, is a potential hazard at 400 meters in diameter. It was discovered on December 28, 2005 by Robert S. McMillan at Steward Observatory, Kitt Peak.
Astronomers say the asteroid will approach Earth, a little closer than the Moon, at about 201,700 miles on Tuesday at 6:28 p.m. (2328 GMT).
Space.com reports that Scott Fisher, program director of the National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences, says the asteroid, at its closest approach to Earth, will be visible from the northern hemisphere. In a livechat organized by ScienceMag.org on November 3, Fisher offers skywatchers tips on how to catch a glimpse of it.
Asteroid 2005 YU55, says Scott Fisher, will not be visible to the naked eye. A telescope with, at least, a 6-inch mirror will be needed to see it. Scott Fisher says:
"It turns out that YU55 is going to be pretty faint when it flies by...To make it even more difficult to observe...it will be moving very quickly across the sky as it passes...The best time to observe it would be in the early evening on November 8th from the east coast of the US...However, It is going to be very faint, even at its closest approach. You will need a decent sized telescope to be able to actually see the object as it flies by."
Space.com says the asteroid's coordinates as it approaches Earth are available at the JPL Solar System Dynamics website.
Professional astronomers are already preparing the huge Arecibo observatory radio telescope for a close up view of the asteroid as it passes. Astronomers are most interested in collecting detailed radar images and to analyze the rock's composition. Scott Fisher says:
"It turns out that this close approach gives us a great chance to study this kind of object...One thing we are going to do is obtain radar images of the object as it flies by. I've read that we will be able to see details down to a size of about 15 feet [4.6 meters] across on the surface of the asteroid."
Astronomers are assuring people that the asteroid will not pose danger to Earth in any way. They have also dispelled rumors that its gravitational pull will affect the Earth. Scott Fisher says:
"There is no reason to worry about YU55 getting caught up in the gravity of the Earth...Through our observations of the object, we know that there is no chance of it impacting either the Earth or the moon for at least the next 100 years."
Space.com reports Don Teomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Office at the Jet Propulson Laboratory in Pasadena, California, says "thousands of amateur and professional astronomers will observe this object near [its] closest approach to Earth...However, it is moving too fast on the sky for Hubble to observe it."
But what are the risks of a future impact of asteroid 2005 YU55 with Earth?
The asteroid was rated 1 on the Torino Scale, in February 2010. On April 2010, more accurate radar targeting by the Arecibo telescope further improved upon knowledge of its trajectory, and it was removed from the Sentry Risk Table on 22 April 2010, after astronomers determined it would not hit Earth, at least, in the next 100 years. The asteroid is expected to pass close to Earth once again in 2041. There are, however, some uncertainties as to how close it will pass in 2014 because the trajectory of its close approach to Venus, expected in 2029, will determine the trajectory of its next approach to Earth, though astronomers are certain it will pose no danger.
Meanwhile, astronomers continue to watch the skies for other Near-Earth objects that may pose greater immediate risk to Earth than 2005 YU55. Another asteroid of similar size is expected to "graze" Earth in 2028.
More about Asteroid, YU55, Space, NASA, Orbit
 
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