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Asteroid 2011: How To See '2005 YU55' From Earth (LIVE UPDATES, PHOTOS)

The Huffington Post     By Timothy Stenovec
First Posted: 11/08/11 11:36 AM ET Updated: 11/08/11 07:24 PM ET

2005 YU55, an asteroid larger than an aircraft carrier, will whiz past Earth on Tuesday, coming so close to the home planet that it will actually travel inside the moon's orbit.

Astronomically speaking, the asteroid will narrowly miss Earth, but NASA tells HuffPost we have nothing to worry about. Rather, it is an opportunity for astronomers to do research into the asteroid's composition.

UPDATE 11/8 7pm: According to the Associated Press, the asteroid has "zipped by Earth."

"There is no chance that this object will collide with the Earth or moon," Don Yeomans, the manager of NASA's Near Earth Object Program office, told Reuters last week.

According to NASA, the space rock is about 1,300 feet across and takes about 18 hours to make a full rotation. At its closest point to Earth, which will occur at 6:28 p.m. EST, the asteroid will be 202,000 miles away, or roughly .85 the distance of the moon to Earth.

Even though it's relatively close, Asteroid 2005 YU55 can't be seen with the naked eye. But if the stars align (yes, we had to go there), some amateur astronomers with the right equipment might be able to catch a glimpse of the asteroid as it hurtles by at a reported 30,000 miles per hour.

"The best time to observe it would be in the early evening on November 8th from the east coast of the US," Scott Fisher, program director of the National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences told Space.com. "However! It is going to be VERY faint, even at its closest approach. You will need a decent sized telescope to be able to actually see the object as it flies by."

According to Kelly Beatty at Sky & Telescope, you'll need a telescope with at least a 6-inch aperture to see the asteroid. It's a nearly full moon tonight, so just like some of the meteor showers earlier this year that have been washed out, the visibility of the asteroid could also be affected by the moon's glare.

Sky & Telescope, which has a great map of the asteroid's path, reports that the space rock will take ten hours to move east across the sky, from Aquila to Pegasus.

Don't fear if you lack the equipment or know-how to track the space rock. For a roughly $12 donation, you can catch a live webcast of the event from Italy's Bellatrix Astronomical Observatory.

Countdown to asteroid passing closest to Earth:

Animation of asteroid's path as it passes by Earth:

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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The Associated Press writes:

An asteroid as big as an aircraft carrier zipped by Earth on Tuesday in the closest encounter by such a massive space rock in more than three decades. Scientists ruled out any chance of a collision but turned their telescopes skyward to learn more about the object known as 2005 YU55.

Read more here.

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@ AsteroidWatch : @tdcmba Yes, of course it missed. There was no threat of it hitting but it was close enough to allow us to do great science.

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Remember when we thought that asteroid might hit us?

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*Crickets*?

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@ AsteroidWatch : Another live feed of asteroid #YU55 from the Clay Center Observatory's 25-inch telescope: http://t.co/I3fWvPbP

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@ slow_ro : RT @AsteroidWatch Another live feed of asteroid #YU55 from the Clay Center Observatory's 25-inch telescope: http://t.co/2WeeOQko

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Have no fear - NASA writes that while the asteroid's encounter with Earth is the closest it has come in the last 200 years, "The gravitational influence of the asteroid will have no detectable effect on Earth, including tides and tectonic plates."

Read more here.

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Scientific American discusses asteroids, writing, "On average, a 30 meter sized object, the smallest that could cause significant ground damage, would be expected to hit every few hundred years, and a larger object of a kilometer in diameter would not be expected to hit but every few hundred thousand years."

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Ever wonder what a large asteroid impact would do? Check out this simulator from Purdue University.

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Watch the first video of the asteroid from NASA below, and learn more here:

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@ PopMech : Death by #asteroid, and how to avoid it http://t.co/EW0cRueb

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MSNBC reports that "the science team for NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer recently estimated that more than 90 percent of the near-Earth asteroids wider than a kilometer (0.6 miles) have been identified, but that thousands of asteroids in YU55's size range still remain to be detected."

Read more here.

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Check out http://events.slooh.com/ for a live webcast from a Canary Islands telescope.

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In a Washington Post Q & A with NSF astronomer Thomas Statler, a concerned person asked what to do if they see an asteroid coming towards them: "Should one seek to go into a basement or, if there is not time, move into a doorframe?"

Statler responded, "Well, if you really know it's coming toward YOU, the doorframe ain't gonna help."

Read the full Q & A here.

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Aerospace engineers from Analytical Graphics, Inc. (AGI) have created an animation of the asteroid passing Earth, viewable below. (COURTESY ANALYTICAL GRAPHICS, INC.):

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@ stevehook1 : Asteroid approaching. Pleased I didn't pay for my hotel room up front.

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No telescope? No worries! The Near Earth Object Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory tweeted information about a live webcast of 2005 YU55's flyby.

@ AsteroidWatch : A live webcast of #YU55 from a Canary Island telescope will be provided by @slooh starting at 4pm ET today. www.slooh.com

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Space.com has put together an awesome infographic that includes information about other asteroid flybys, past and future. Check it out here.

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TIME reports that scientists at Spaceguard are currently watching 19,500 asteroids of 330-3,300 ft range that qualify as "near-Earth," adding that "moving objects pack a bigger punch than their size suggests."

More here.

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@ ryanbeckwith : That's what THEY want you to believe. RT @danpeake: Asteroid to just miss Earth on tonight’s flyby http://t.co/jNO4nRPx

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York University astronomer Paul Delaney told CTV's Canada AM, "NASA and other spacefaring agencies are out there trying to find credible ways to actually deflect these objects. According to the news organization, Delaney believes technology will be developed in the future to help divert an asteroid.

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BBC News reports that the asteroid is "lazily spinning about once every 20 hours." Two radio telescopes in particular will be following the asteroid: the Goldstone Observatory in California and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

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The Washington Post reports that NASA's search for threatening asteroids costs about $5 million each year.

More here.

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NASA reports:

The last time a space rock this large came as close to Earth was in 1976, although astronomers did not know about the flyby at the time. The next known approach of an asteroid this size will be in 2028.

More here.

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Check out this video below by Discovery about how to stop an asteroid:

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The Miami Herald tweets:

@ MiamiHerald : Giant #asteroid watched closely on path near Earth, might reveal the "primordial ingredients of life" http://t.co/T7EtMhYT #space

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The Associated Press reports that since its discovery, scientists have learned that the asteroid's "surface is coal black, and it spins slowly through space."

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The Sydney Morning Herald reports that according to Paul Francis, an astrophysicist at the Australian National University, if an asteroid did hit Earth, it would ''certainly take out a medium-sized continent."

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CNN reports:

If the asteroid were to crash into Earth, it could cause a 4,000 megaton blast and a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, according to scientists at Purdue University.

The experts added that it could also cause a 70-foot high tsunami if it fell in the ocean.

More here.

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@ KING5Seattle : "We're 100 percent confident this is not a threat" - carrier-sized asteroid coming close to Earth: http://t.co/YqGEgV4F

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Check out some asteroid photos in the slideshow below:

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  • In this handout from NASA, the giant asteroid Vesta is seen in an image taken from the NASA Dawn spacecraft about 3,200 miles above the surface July 24, 2011 in Space. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltec via Getty Images)

  • This Feb. 14, 2000 photo provided by NASA shows the north pole of the asteroid Eros. The crater seen on the surface of Eros measures 4 miles across. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • This handout image provided by the European Space Agency, transmitted by the space craft Rosetta, shows the asteroid Lutetia at closest approach July 10, 2010 between Mars and Jupiter in outer space. (Photo by ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team via Getty Images)

  • This undated artist concept released by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows the Dawn spacecraft with Ceres and Vesta seen in the background. The spacecraft was captured into orbit around the massive asteroid Vesta after a 1.7 billion-mile journey and is preparing to begin a study of a surface that may date to the earliest era of the solar system, the space agency said Monday, July 18, 2011, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/William K. Hartmann/UCLA/NASA, JET PROPULSION LABORATORY)

  • This handout photo illustration provided by the European Space Agency, transmitted by the space craft Rosetta, shows the final sequence of images before the closest approach of the asteroid Lutetia July 10, 2010 between Mars and Jupiter in outer space. (Photo by ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team via Getty Images)

  • This handout image provided by the European Space Agency, transmitted by the space craft Rosetta, shows a close-up view of a possible landslide and boulders at the highest resolution on the asteroid Lutetia July 10, 2010 between Mars and Jupiter in outer space. (Photo by ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team via Getty Images)

  • This artist's concept provided by NASA illustrates the first known Earth Trojan asteroid, discovered by NEOWISE, the asteroid-hunting portion of NASA's WISE mission. The asteroid is shown in gray and its extreme orbit is shown in green. Earth's orbit around the sun is indicated by blue dots. The objects are not drawn to scale. The asteroid's orbit is well defined and for at least the next 100 years, it will not come closer to Earth than 15 million miles (24 million kilometers). (AP Photo/NASA - Paul Wiegert)

  • Computer modeling shows that the parent object of asteroid (298) Baptistina, which was approximately 170-kilometers in diameter with characteristics similar to carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, was disrupted 160 million years ago when it was hit by another asteroid estimated to be 60-kilometres in diameter.The extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago can be traced to a collision between two monster rocks in the asteroid belt nearly 100 million years earlier, scientists reported on September 5, 2007. The two pictures on the right show remnants of the collision impacting the Earth and Moon. (DON DAVIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • This image of the Asteroid Vesta, released by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Monday, August 1, 2011, was captured by the Dawn spacecraft on July 24, 2011 at a distance of 3,200 miles (5,200 kilometers). (AP Photo/NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

  • This July 23, 2011 image of the Asteroid Vesta, released by NASA/JPL, was captured by the Dawn spacecraft at a distance of 3,200 miles (5,200 kilometers). (AP Photo/ NASA/JPL)

  • This undated artist rendition released by NASA/JPL shows the Dawn spacecraft orbiting the asteroid Vesta. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL)

  • This image released by NASA/JPL on Thursday July 28, 2011 shows an image of the dark side of Vesta asteroid captured by NASA'S Dawn spacecraft on July 23, 2011, and taken from a distance of about 3,200 miles (5,200 kilometers) away from the giant asteroid. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL)

  • This image of the Asteroid Vesta, released by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Monday, July 18, 2011, was captured by the Dawn spacecraft on July 17, 2011. The image was taken from a distance of about 9,500 miles (15,000 kilometers) away from the proto planet Vesta. (AP Photo/ NASA/JPL)

  • This image of the Asteroid Vesta, released by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Monday, July 18, 2011, was captured by the Dawn spacecraft on July 1, 2011. The image was taken from a distance of about 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) away from the protoplanet Vesta. Each pixel in the image corresponds to roughly 5.8 miles. (AP Photo/ NASA)


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