Earth To Have Close Encounter With Large Asteroid

Monday, November 7th 2011, 2:30 pm
By: Richard Clark

The weekend brought a record-setting earthquake to Oklahoma.  The workweek brought severe weather.  Next up, a close encounter with an asteroid.

Its official name is asteroid 2005 YU55.

So what exactly is asteroid 2005 YU55?  It's a chunk of rock about the size of an aircraft carrier.

NASA says it will come close to Earth on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.  NASA emphasizes there is absolutely no chance that the asteroid will collide with Earth.

NASA has been tracking it with its Deep Space Network at Goldstone, California for the last few days.  Scientists began using radar observations from the Arecibo Planetary Radar Facility in Puerto Rico Tuesday morning to gather more precise information.

Learn more about asteroids.

The asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth at about 5:30 p.m. Oklahoma time.  At that point it will be about 201,700 miles, which is actually closer to Earth than the moon (the moon is about 239,000 miles from Earth).

NASA says the gravitational influence of the asteroid will have no detectable effect on anything on Earth, including tides or tectonic plates.

Scientists know a lot about the orbit of 2005 YU55, which brings it close to Earth regularly.  They say this year's encounter with Earth is the closest the rock has come for at least the last 200 years.

In last year's flyby, scientists learned that 2005 YU55 is slowly spinning, with a rotation period of about 18 hours. They also learned the asteroid's surface is darker than charcoal.

NASA hopes this year's close encounter allows it to learn the asteroid's precise shape, as well as its makeup.