November 8, 2011
Massive Asteroid Approaching Earth On Tuesday
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NASA reports that a massive asteroid (2005 YU55) will make a rare fly-by of Earth today.
The asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth at 3:28 p.m. PST.
This will be the closest encounter by an asteroid of that size in over 30 years. It will also not happen again until 2028.
Scott Fisher, program director of the National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences, said the asteroid is "going to be pretty faint when it flies by."
"It will not be visible to the naked eye. You will need a telescope that has a mirror at least six inches in size to see it. To make it even more difficult to observe, it will be moving very quickly across the sky as it passes," Fisher said in a statement.
He said several radar telescopes are set up in North America to catch a glimpse of the asteroid as it whizzes by.
Astronomers say the asteroid is part of the C-class of asteroids and is very dark, like the color of charcoal.
Robert McMillan of the Spacewatch Project discovered the asteroid in 2005.
According to forecasts, the asteroid's closest pass to Earth is going to take place in 2094, at a distance of 167,000 miles.
NASA said the last time a space rock this big approached Earth was in 1976, but astronomers did not know about the fly-by during this time.
Image Caption: This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 was generated from data taken in April of 2010 by the Arecibo Radar Telescope in Puerto Rico. Image credit: NASA/Cornell/Arecibo
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