Giant Asteroid Headed Toward Fly-by of Earth

Astronomers call it a rare chance to learn about life's origins
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 3, 2011 5:41 AM CDT

(Newser) – We're just five days away from an aircraft-carrier-sized asteroid passing less than 202,000 miles from the Earth, a rare near-miss for an object this large, reports ABC News. The object called 2005 YU55 is a circular c-type asteroid—carbon-based, darker than charcoal, and the kind likely responsible for bringing organic materials to Earth. "Without objects of this type, we probably wouldn't be here," said one NASA researcher.

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It's the biggest asteroid to pass so close since 1976, when observation technology was much less advanced, so scientists are looking forward to a close-up look at "what it was like when our solar system was forming," says the NASA researcher. The next such fly-by is not expected until 2028. Scientists also say c-type asteroids might also be useful in the future for interplanetary travel, as they often contain water and a compound that can make jet fuel. (Read more asteroid stories.)

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