Asteroid 2005 YU55: An Expert’s Explanation

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

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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.

Space.com 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 SPACE.com infographic.
Source: SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

 

Video: JPL

 

Asteroid 2005 YU55 Gets Closer to Earth; “No Chance of an Impact”

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Yes, it’s coming. Yes, it’s big. Yes, it will be even closer than the Moon. And yes… we’re completely safe.

The 400-meter-wide asteroid 2005 YU55 is currently zipping through the inner Solar System at over 13 km (8 miles) a second. On Tuesday, November 8, at 6:28 p.m. EST, it will pass Earth, coming within 325,000 km (202,000 miles). This is indeed within the Moon’s orbit (although YU55’s trajectory puts it a bit above the exact plane of the Earth-Moon alignment.) Still, it is the closest pass by such a large object since 1976… yet, NASA scientists aren’t concerned. Why?

Because its orbit has been well studied, there’s nothing in its way, and frankly there’s simply nothing it will do to affect Earth.

Animation of 2005 YU55's trajectory on Nov. 8. (NASA/JPL) Click to play.

Period.

2005 YU55’s miniscule gravity will not cause earthquakes. It has no magnetic field. It will not strike another object, or the Moon, or the Earth. It will not come into contact with cometary debris, Elenin, a black dwarf, Planet X, or Nibiru. (Not that those last three even exist.) No, YU55 will do exactly what it’s doing right now: passing through the Solar System. It will come, it will go, and hopefully NASA scientists – as well as many amateur astronomers worldwide – will have a chance to get a good look at it as it passes.

Scientists with NASA’s Near-Earth Objects Observation Program will begin tracking YU55 on Friday, November 4 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 beginning November 8. These facilities will continue to track it until the 10th.

This close pass will offer a great opportunity to get detailed radar imaging of YU55, an ancient C-type asteroid literally darker than coal. Since these objects can be difficult to observe using visible light, radar mapping can better reveal details about their surface and composition.

To help inform the public about YU55 NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena recently hosted a live Q&A session on Ustream featuring specialists Marina Brozovic, a Goldstone Radar Team scientist, and Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program. They fielded questions sent in via chat and Twitter… a recording of the event in its entirety can be seen below:



Video streaming by Ustream

Undoubtedly there will still be those who continue to spread misinformation about 2005 YU55. After all, they did the same with the now-disintegrated comet Elenin. But the truth is out there… and the truth is that there’s no danger, no cover-ups, no “plots”, and simply no cause for concern.

“It’s completely safe… no chance of an impact.”

– Don Yeomans, JPL

Read more about YU55 on our previous post or  on NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program site.

UPDATE: JPL has released a brief video about YU55 featuring research scientist Lance Benner, who specializes in radar imaging of near-Earth objects:

Although classified as a potentially hazardous object, 2005 YU55 poses no threat of an Earth collision over at least the next 100 years. However, this will be the closest approach to date by an object this large that we know about in advance and an event of this type will not happen again until 2028 when asteroid (153814) 2001 WN5 will pass to within 0.6 lunar distances. – Near-Earth Object Program, JPL