06 November 2011

An Asteroid Makes a Near-Earth Approach - YU55

We have a special event coming our way, literally. An asteroid by the name of YU55 will speed near Earth on Tuesday 8th, perhaps even becoming visible for those with a good telescope and a clear view to the west. David Perlman's article in the San Francisco Chronicle includes some very helpful information how to find this, as does Kelly Beatty's writeup in Sky and Telescope.

Track of asteroid YU55
This is a fairly rare fly-by of an asteroid. There are 1000s of "Near Earth Objects" (NEOs) being tracked. Tiny objects like meteors are commonplace, impacting Earth daily, and causing no harm as they burn up in the atmosphere. But the NEOs are larger, potentially causing considerably greater harm if they were to collide with Earth. Happily, all NEOs that are being tracked at this time are not on a collision course with us. YU55 will pass quite close by cosmic measures, within the orbit of the Moon. At 1/4 mile in size, an impact by YU55 would cause major damage on Earth, but we need not worry. And the next close fly-by of an asteroid is not expected until 2028, with a similar 'miss by a mile' outcome. Sleep well!


Anonymous said...

Hello, do you think there is a place where my wife and I might be able to see the asteroid on Tuesday night ? We live in San Francisco but we can drive anywhere. We do not have a telescope. Thank you much

The Urban Astronomer said...

Good question. I will check around a bit. You might call Chabot Space and Science Center - perhaps they will have a public program. I live in SF but won't be able to set up for the public that night.

If I find something, I'll post it here.

-- Paul

Anonymous said...

I was at Key WestFl several daysago and saw it with unaided eye in the s skies.
At1st I thought it might be Space Station. Some German girls were walking by and said it was the N Star but, not so because the Big Dipper, Orion's Belt, etcconstellations clearly visible on the e horizon.
With binoculars it looks like it has a parachute trailing behind it.
Tonight I'min Birmingham Al, it's partly cloudy here but I can still see it. Also, my sonin LVcansee itwith unaided eye.
I'mnot getting why one needs a telescope to seeit!
Just go outand look in the direction close to the Moon.
It's the brightest thing out there and it's NOT JUPITER!

Ali.Cheval said...

Hello, Thank God! I'm not the only one who observed a bright moving star. I live in Karachi city. It was probably 12.30 am, on my roof top with my neighbour. We both saw YU55 passing between moon and the earth. Initially I was denying the fact that it would be a star or an astroid. I thought it is an aeroplane. But its direction and bright light made it very obvious that it was not something normal. I told my family about it but they didnt beleive. Today I saw on CNN about an astroid passing the earth.