Tuesday, November 08, 2011

NASA Captures New Images of Large Asteroid Passing Earth

Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, CA has captured new radar images of Asteroid 2005 YU55 passing close to Earth.

The asteroid safely will safely fly past our planet slightly closer than the moon’s orbit on November 8th. The last time a space rock this large came as close to Earth was in 1976, although astronomers did not know about the flyby at the time. The next known approach of an asteroid this size will be in 2028.

The image was taken on November 7th at 11:45am PST (2:45pm EST/1945 UTC), when the asteroid was approximately 860,000 miles (1.38 million kilometers) away from Earth. Tracking of the aircraft carrier-sized asteroid began at Goldstone at 9:30am PDT on November 4th with the 230-foot-wide (70-meter) antenna and lasted about two hours, with an additional four hours of tracking planned each day from November 6th – 10th.

Radar observations from the Arecibo Planetary Radar Facility in Puerto Rico will begin November 8th, the same day the asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth at 3:28pm PST (6:28pm EST/1128 UTC).

The trajectory of asteroid 2005 YU55 is well understood. At the point of closest approach, it will be no closer than 201,700 miles (324,600 kilometers) as measured from the center of Earth, or about 0.85 times the distance from the moon to Earth. The gravitational influence of the asteroid will have no detectable effect on Earth, including tides and tectonic plates. Although the asteroid is in an orbit that regularly brings it to the vicinity of Earth, Venus and Mars, the 2011 encounter with Earth is the closest it has come for at least the last 200 years.

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