Asteroid Swings By Earth Tonight

Want to see it? Good luck...

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 8, 2011 8:23 AM CST

(Newser) – At 6:28pm Eastern time tonight, an aircraft carrier-sized asteroid will swing by Earth at a distance of 201,000 miles, which is within the moon’s orbit. That’s the closest an asteroid has come to the planet since 1976, but don’t worry: NASA has determined the space rock poses no threat, the Wall Street Journal reports. You won’t be able to view it with the naked eye, but if you have a good sky chart and a 6-inch or larger telescope, you may have a shot, the Telegraph adds.

The 1,300-foot-wide 2005 YU55 is traveling at 29,000 miles per hour. Researchers have been monitoring it, and will learn more about it through radar images. Asteroids are among the solar system’s oldest objects, and astronomers hope to glean clues about the origins of life on our planet. “This is an extraordinary opportunity to look at an extremely important type of asteroid,” says one NASA scientist. “A small army of astronomers are pretty excited about it.” Click for more on the asteroid.

This image made from radar data taken in April 2010 by the Arecibo Radar Telescope in Puerto Rico and provided by NASA/Cornell/Arecibo shows asteroid 2005 YU55.
This image made from radar data taken in April 2010 by the Arecibo Radar Telescope in Puerto Rico and provided by NASA/Cornell/Arecibo shows asteroid 2005 YU55.   (AP Photo/NASA/Cornell/Arecibo)
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