Huge Asteroid to Narrowly Miss Earth (In Space Terms)
The elegantly named asteroid 2005 YU55 is scheduled to give Earth a flyby on Tuesday, passing by us at a distance closer than the moon's orbit. The asteroid is about four football fields long, in case you plan on playing football on it. At its closest point to Earth, 2005 YU55 will be 201,700 miles overhead. For reference, the closest the moon gets to us during its own orbit is 225,700 miles. So, are we all going to die?
This won't happen. Or will it? (It won't).
NASA scientists have concretely said that, no, 2005 YU55 will not hit Earth and kill you and all your favorite celebrities. It also has no chance of hitting the moon, as the moon will be on the other side of its orbit during the flyby. If it's not hitting us or the moon, what good is this asteroid?
According to NASA, during 2005 YU55's pass, "scientists will use antennas at NASA's Deep Space Network in Goldstone, Calif., and at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico to bounce radio waves off the space rock." The information gathered will give them a really good idea of what the asteroid looks like and what it does for fun.
Here is a dramatic representation of that highly technical process:
2005 YU55 will be whizzing by at 6:28 p.m. on Tuesday. If you miss it, no sweat: Its orbit will bring it back in about 200 years.