Asteroid 2005 YU55: An Expert’s Explanation

by Jason Major on November 4, 2011

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NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory released this video today featuring more information about the much-discussed 2005 YU55, a 400-meter-wide asteroid that will pass by Earth next Tuesday at a distance closer than the Moon. The video features research scientist Lance Benner, an expert in radio imaging of near-Earth objects.

While YU55 will come closer than any object we’ve been aware of in the past 35 years, it poses no risk to Earth.

“2005 YU55 cannot hit Earth, at least over the interval that we can compute the motion reliably, which extends for several hundred years.”

– Lance Benner, JPL Research Scientist

Radar image of 2005 YU55, acquired in April 2010.

While we can’t state enough that there’s no danger from YU55, this close pass will offer a fantastic opportunity for scientists to acquire detailed radar images of this ancient C-type asteroid. 

NASA’s Near-Earth Objects Observation Program will continue tracking YU55 using the 70-meter radar telescope at the Deep Space Network in Goldstone, California, as well as with the Arecibo Planetary Radar Facility in Puerto Rico.

“This is the closest approach by an asteroid this large that we’ve known about in advance,” said Benner. “The Goldstone telescope has a new radar imaging capability which has just become available that will enable us to see much finer detail than has previously been possible.”

Radar imaging allows scientists to better study the surface features and composition of fast-moving, dark objects like YU55 which reflect very little visible light. has provided a great infographic that shows exactly where this asteroid will pass by Earth. Note that the side view plainly shows that the path of the asteroid is well above the plane of the Earth/Moon orbit.

Learn about the huge asteroid 2005 YU55's close pass by Earth in this infographic.
Source: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration


Video: JPL



A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

Alex Summers November 5, 2011 at 10:42 PM

Fear. What do we fear? Death. When you lose your fear of death, and loss, fear no longer controls you. Then you are truly free to examine this phenomenon with a clear head, untainted by fear. Fear, you must master it, or it will master you. It leads to paranoia, and other unhealthy disorders. You cannot control death. So, why try? If you are meant to die, you will. So, in conclusion, build a bridge, and get over it.

squidgeny November 7, 2011 at 1:57 PM

Right, but a fear of death evolved for a reason. If you lose your fear of death, you’re more likely to die.

Mr Ree November 6, 2011 at 7:05 AM

I am sending this in brief///….New NASA data reportedly reads that asteroid 2005 YU55 has begun to slow its speed and are calculating its new course as it slows. Its also has been confirmed its course has changed.
These details are causing havoc here at NASA and around the scientific world as specialists are being called in from all over to determine why the 400meter object is behaving in such a manner. Some activity described as debris comming off of YU55 has been recorded close to the objects surface.
Mr Ree

Lights in the Dark November 6, 2011 at 5:19 PM

Simply 100% not true.

Anonymous November 6, 2011 at 1:32 PM

Isn’t it about time we named Earth’s moon? I mean, REALLY! Come on, now…isn’t it about time? I would like to propose the moon be named after the ancient Greek goddess Artimis, who helped people see at night. Nice name for our moon, huh?

Just think; other planets moons have names, don’t they?! Take Jupiter, for instance, Jupiter’s moons have nice names, Io, Ganymede…great names, right? So why haven’t we yet named the moon closest to our own planet? What an oversight!

Let’s vote on it, OK? How many of you like the name Artimis for our moon?

I also favor the name of the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis, worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the matron of nature, magic, and fertility. The goddess Isis (mother of Horus) was the first daughter of Geb, the god of the Earth, and Nut, the goddess of the Overarching Sky.

We can vote on the name Isis for the moon in another “comment”.

OK: Who’s for naming our moon Artimis? Vote “Like” (thumbs up).

(PS: We might as well name our sun, (I’m partial to Sol or Apollo), and what about our solar system: How about the Earth solar system?)

Hermit Crab November 6, 2011 at 11:53 PM

The moon already has a name and has for a very long time. Likewise the sun has a name. You foolishly take these names for granted and as people we tend to call other similar objects by the names of Moon and Sun. Other planets have satellites. Other systems have stars. WE have the SUN (aka as Sol as in Solar system? Solar winds? etc), and we have the MOON (aka Luna as in Lunar cycle?)

If you look up the name Luna you’ll get the following: Luna is the Latin word for moon, and was the name of Roman goddess of the moon, who is usually identified with the Greek goddess Selene.

Sorry your naming of the moon has been beat by several hundred years.

Anonymous November 7, 2011 at 1:22 PM


Lyle Clyde November 8, 2011 at 1:17 AM

A near miss. It’s just a matter of time, go ask the dinosaurs.

T November 8, 2011 at 5:44 AM

I know this is random, ignorant, and laughable, but it’d be so sick if aliens came here at some point.. We could give them drugs and they’d have to be friends with us.. Like, if we gave them heroin they’d be addicted and forced to let us live and forge a trade alliance. Then, Earth would be part of the intergalactic community and we could peddle our drugs across the universe from that threshold, especially tobacco, or even marijuana. From there, we could set up colonies on distant planets using our trade partners’ technologies and use them as drug growth centers and forge the most prolific marijuana known to the universe..We could have plantations all across the galaxy with slaves from other planets that harvest drugs for us, creating an unfathomable margin of profit. The Earth’s cities would become manufacturing hubs to treat and synthesize our drugs. At this point, the universe has accepted Earth as the most powerful member of the intergalactic alliance, and every household on Earth would belong to the upperclass of the universe because we would have so much wealth. Thus, if aliens arrive on earth, you know exactly what you need to give them: DRUGS!!!

Hilary Howard November 8, 2011 at 5:50 AM

Found it on the sky watch via which was telling when and where to watch from all parts of the world but, seems it was not until the last few days before it that other sites said needed to view with a telescope. I guess I wait for them to post the pictures and videos so I can see it but, out looking myself and hope to sell the pictures to that site again and on this would rock.

infowolf1 November 8, 2011 at 9:34 AM

I understand the flyby date is changed from 8th to 9th?
either they miscalculated which seems odd, or it is
slowing down. if it is slowing down, it may be coming
off course to crash on earth or into the moon

OR it is an alien (or space Nazi?) mother ship, and it
is either going to land on earth or on the moon, or
park itself at a Lagrange Point, and in either case
launch some kind of invasion?

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