Close Encounters Of The Asteroid Kind

Today a potentially hazardous asteroid will approach the Earth’s atmosphere. The asteroid 2005 YU55, which is about 1,300 feet (400 meters) across, will make its closest approach to Earth at 6:28 p.m. EST (2328 GMT) today.

Fortunately for us, Asteroid 2005 YU55 will miss an Earthly encounter by 0.85 lunar distance, or approximately 208,000 miles (335,000 kilometers). In space standards, that is a close shave. At that point, the space rock will be traveling at about 29,000 mph and be closer than the moon, which orbits 238,864 miles (384,499 km) from us on average.

With a diameter of 400 meters, the approach will mark the closest a known object this large has ever gotten to a collision with Earth and will continue to hold that record until Asteroid 2001 WN5 gets within 0.6 lunar distance in 2028. 2005 YU55 was only discovered 6 years ago, so there is still the possibility that Space Watch may find other monstrous floating rocks in the run-up to 2028.  The approach will be closest at around 7:30 p.m. ET and viewable in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres with a visual brightness of the 11th magnitude, but will not be easily spotted according to Robert McMillan of the Space Watch Program in Tucson, Ariz.

Researchers are excited about 2005 YU55’s close approach, because it gives them a chance to study the space rock as never before. The asteroid was discovered in 2005 by astronomer Robert McMillan of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

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