The bad news first: An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier will be hurtling toward Earth next
Tuesday. The good news: The space rock will not, repeat not, hit Earth. Even though NASA has
classified asteroid 2005 YU55 as a "potentially hazardous object." Even though it will pass closer to
our planet than the moon. It will do just that: pass by.
But the 1,300-foot-wide object, which will be just 201,700 miles away from Earth, offers a rare
scientific opportunity. "Asteroids have passed this close or even closer in the past, but astronomers
have not had as much advance notice," noted Bing Quock, assistant director of the Morrison
Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences, in an email to Yahoo! News.
Quock added that the early alert, coupled with the asteroid's proximity to Earth, will allow NASA to map the surface of this particular
asteroid "to quite a spectacular resolution that's usually available only by sending spacecraft up close to the object." The last time an
asteroid flew this close to Earth was in 1976. The next time won't be until 2028.
To get a good read of the huge space rock, scientists at NASA will engage a 230-foot-long antenna out of the Deep Space Network in
Goldstone, California. The giant Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico will also capture images of the asteroid, starting at 3:28 p.m. PT
on November 8.
Fun fact for amateur astronomers: The asteroid is actually moving too fast for the Hubble Space Telescope to view but, according to
CNN, you could spot it with a small telescope of at least 6 inches in diameter.