Asteroid 2005 YU55: See It For Yourself!

Passage of of 2005 YU55 near Altair from 6:03 p.m. – 6:12 p.m. EST (11:03 – 11:12 UTC)


It’s already been stated several times here on Universe Today that 2005 YU55, a 400-meter-wide roughly spherical asteroid, will not pose any threat to Earth as it passes by on Tuesday, November 8… even though it will come within 80% of the distance to the Moon. Many experts have come forward to state this fact, including Don Yeomans of JPL’s Near-Earth Object Observation Program and Lance Benner, a radio astronomer with the Deep Space Network in Goldstone, CA.  But it will still be a notable event, being the first time since 1976 such a large object will pass so closely by our planet. So, with the eve of YU55’s approach upon us, let’s turn our curiosity toward another aspect of this cosmic visitation: how can we see it?

Unfortunately there are a couple of factors working against the casual observer being able to witness YU55’s pass. One: it’s a dark object. A very dark object. 2005 YU55 is a C-type asteroid, which means it is composed of carbonaceous material and is thus effectively darker than coal, reflecting less than 1% of the sunlight that it receives. It probably won’t be brighter than magnitude 10. (On the backwards-ranked scale of apparent magnitude, 6 is the limit of best visibility to the average human eye, while -1 or 0 would be a very bright star. Jupiter is about -3 right now, while the full moon would be -12.7. In a typical suburban neighborhood 3 or 4 is the limit of naked-eye visibility.)

And two: the Moon will be close to full on the night of the 8th, and YU55 will be headed in its direction. That sure won’t help visibility.

But, should you be located in a dark area, and should you have a 6″ or larger telescope at your disposal, you may want to give a go at spotting the asteroid that’s caused quite a fuss over the past few months for yourself. It won’t be a simple task, but it’s not impossible – and to help you out teacher, writer and astronomy enthusiast David Dickinson has posted an article about it on his blog, Astro Guyz.

Here’s an exerpt:

Closest approach to Earth occurs at 11:29 UTC/06:29 EST at about 202,000 miles distant, placing it high to the southwest for observers on the US Eastern Seaboard. At its closest approach, 2005 YU55 will glide along at one degree every 7 minutes, easily noticeable after a few minutes of observation at low power. I plan to target selected areas with my GOTO mount, sketch the field, then watch for changes. I may also take some wide-field piggyback stills with the DSLR, but mostly, this one will just be fun to watch.

Visually tracking a Near-Earth asteroid can be thrilling to watch; for example, I’ve actually seen 4179 Toutatis years ago show discernable movement after tracking it for a few moments in the eyepiece!

– David Dickinson

Wide field finder of 2005 YU55 from sunset until 8:30PM EST.

The asteroid will pass through the constellations Aquila, Delphinus, and Pegasus as it heads westward. Interestingly, 2005 YU55 passes within a degree of Altair centered on 6:07:30PM EST only 27 minutes after local sunset, and also makes a very close pass of the star Epsilon Delphini during closest approach. These both make good visual “anchors” to aim your scope at during the appointed time and watch. Keep in mind, the charts provided are rough and “Tampa Bay-centric…”

On an approach as close as this one, two factors muddle the precise prediction coordinates of the asteroid; one is the fact the gravitational field of the Earth will change the orbit of 2005 YU55 slightly, and two is that the position will change due to the position of the observer on the Earth and the effect of parallactic shift. Many prediction programs assume the Earthly vantage as a mere point in space, fine for positioning deep sky objects but not so hot for ones passing near the planet. A good place to get updated coordinates is JPL Horizons website which lets you generate an accurate ephemeris for your exact longitude latitude and elevation.

David goes on to add:

2005 YU55 will pass our Moon at 8 AM Universal Time on November 9th at a distance only marginally closer than it did the Earth, at 140,000 miles. Interestingly, it also transited Sun on November 3rd as seen from the Moon, but would have appeared <1” in size, a tough target for any would-be lunar-based observer. Its next close predicted passage of the Earth won’t be until 2056 at nearly 3 times the distance.


Excellent information… many thanks to David for sharing with us! (You can read the full article on his website here.) And if you do witness the pass of this asteroid and somehow manage to get some photos of it, you can share them on the Universe Today Flickr group… they may be featured in an upcoming article!

Read more about 2005 YU55’s close pass by Earth tomorrow.

Charts and excerpts by David Dickinson, created with Starry Night and Paint.


Asteroid 2005 YU55: An Expert’s Explanation

A radar image an asteroid, 2005 YU55, acquired in April 2010. (This is not the asteroid that will pass by Earth on Jan. 27, 2012)Credit: NASA

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


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


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

A radar image an asteroid, 2005 YU55, acquired in April 2010. (This is not the asteroid that will pass by Earth on Jan. 27, 2012)Credit: NASA


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.


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

NASA Prepares for Asteroid’s Close Pass by Earth

Radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55, acquired in April 2010. Credit: NASA/Cornell/Arecibo.


On Tuesday, November 8, at 6:28 p.m. EST, an asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier will soar past our planet at a distance closer than the Moon… and NASA scientists will be watching!

2005 YU55, a 400-meter (1,300-foot) -wide C-type asteroid, was discovered in December 2005 by Robert McMillan of the Spacewatch Program at the University of Arizona, Tucson. It’s pretty much spherical in shape and dark – darker than charcoal, in fact! Scientists with NASA’s Near-Earth Objects Observation Program will begin tracking it on 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. They will continue tracking 2005 YU55 through November 10.

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

YU55’s orbit is well understood by scientists. It has come this way before, and although this is the closest it’s come to Earth in at least two centuries it will still be at least 324,600 kilometers (201,700 miles) away at nearest approach. That’s about 85% of the distance to the Moon.

It will approach from the sunward side, making viewing in visible light difficult until after it’s made its closest pass.

Other than the excitement it will most likely cause amongst radar astronomers, 2005 YU55 will have no physical effect on our planet. (There have been some rumors circulating online about this particular asteroid’s upcoming pass, in regards to earthquakes and tidal fluctuations and atmospheric disturbances and other such nonsense… the bottom line is that, like the ill-fated comet Elenin, 2005 YU55 has never been known to pose any threat to Earth.)

“YU55 poses no threat of an Earth collision over, at the very least, the next 100 years,” said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL. “During its closest approach, its gravitational effect on the Earth will be so miniscule as to be immeasurable. It will not affect the tides or anything else.”

The 70m telescope at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California's Mojave Desert. (NASA/JPL)

Scientists are very eager though to have a prime opportunity to study this quarter-mile-wide world as it makes its closest pass. The giant telescopes at Goldstone and Arecibo will bounce radar waves off the asteroid, mapping its size and shape, and hopefully obtain some very high-resolution images.

“Using the Goldstone radar operating with the software and hardware upgrades, the resulting images of YU55 could come in with resolution as fine as 4 meters per pixel. We’re talking about getting down to the kind of surface detail you dream of when you have a spacecraft fly by one of these targets.”

– Lance Benner, JPL radio astronomer

Even though YU55 will remain at a safe distance the event is still quite notable. The last time an object this large came so close to Earth was in 1976… and scientists weren’t even aware of it at the time. Luckily we now have programs like the Near-Earth Objects Observations Program – a.k.a. “Spaceguard” –  to identify asteroids like this, hopefully in time to know if they could become a danger to our planet in either the near or distant future.

As of now, no large space rock with Earth’s name on it has been positively identified… but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing out there either. We need to keep diligent, keep looking and, above all, keep funding programs like this. If anything, this pass should serve as a reminder – however harmless – that we certainly are not alone in the solar system!

Read more on the NASA/JPL press release here.

UPDATE: NASA will be holding a live Q&A on 2005 YU55 and other near-Earth objects on November 1 at 2:30 p.m. PDT (5:30 p.m. EDT)… watch live here.



Asteroid or Space Junk? Object Makes Close Pass by Earth Wednesday

Asteroid or rocket booster? 2010 AL30 as imaged remotely from Australia on Jan. 11, 2010. Credit: Ernesto Guido & Giovanni Sostero

Caption: Asteroid or rocket booster? 2010 AL30 as imaged remotely from Australia on Jan. 11, 2010. Credit: Ernesto Guido & Giovanni Sostero, Remanzacco Observatory.

An unusual object will make a close flyby of Earth on Wednesday, coming within only 128,000 km (about 80,000 miles), or at a distance about three times less than the moon’s orbit. The object, named 2010 AL30, is about 10-15 meters long, and asteroid watchers say there is no chance it will hit the planet. But is it an asteroid or perhaps a piece of space junk, like a spent rocket booster?

UPDATE: The Solar System Dynamics website now says the object is an Apollo-type asteroid, which are Near-Earth asteroids that have orbits which cross the Earth’s orbit and pass approximately 1 AU or less from Earth.

According to Italian astronomers Ernesto Guido and Giovanni Sostero of the Remanzacco Observatory, who took this image (above) of 2010 AL30, it has an orbital period of almost exactly one year and might be a man-made object.

However, Alan Harris, senior researcher at the Space Science Institute said the object has a perfectly ordinary Earth-crossing orbit.

“Unlikely to be artificial, its orbit doesn’t resemble any useful spacecraft trajectory, and its encounter velocity with Earth is not unusually low,” he said.

The object make its closest approach at 12:48 GMT on Wednesday, and and amateur astronomers are encouraged to observe 2010 AL30 as a 14th magnitude star in the constellations of Orion, Taurus, and Pisces. Check here to get the ephemeris of the object from the Solar System Dynamics website.

Several observatories, including the Goldstone Radar will be observing NEO 2010 AL30 during its Earth flyby. After the January 13 close flyby, it will go too close to the Sun to be observed.

Sources: Remanzacco Observatory,

K-T Boundary

Chicxulub Crater

What killed the dinosaurs? That’s a question that has puzzled paleontologists since dinosaurs were first discovered. Maybe the global climate changed, maybe they were killed by disease, volcanoes, or the rise of mammals. But in the last few decades, a new theory has arisen; an asteroid strike millions of years ago drastically changed the Earth’s environment. It was this event that pushed the dinosaurs over the edge into extinction. What’s the evidence for this asteroid impact? A thin dark line found in layers of sediment around the world; evidence that something devastating happened to the planet 65 million years ago. This line is known as the K-T boundary.

What is the K-T boundary? K is actually the traditional abbreviation for the Cretaceous period, and T is the abbreviation for the Tertiary period. So the K-T boundary is the point in between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods. Geologists have dated this period to about 65.5 million years ago.

When physicist Luis Alvarez and geologist Walter Alvarez studied the K-T boundary around the world, they found that it had a much higher concentration of iridium than normal – between 30-130 times the amount of iridium you would expect. Iridium is rare on Earth because it sank down into the center of the planet as it formed, but iridium can still be found in large concentrations in asteroids. When they compared the concentrations of iridium in the K-T boundary, they found it matched the levels found in meteorites.

The researchers were even able to estimate what kind of asteroid must have impacted the Earth 65.5 million years ago to throw up such a consistent layer of debris around the entire planet. They estimated that the impactor must have been about 10 km in diameter, and release the energy equivalent of 100 trillion tons of TNT.

When that asteroid struck the Earth 65.5 million years ago, it destroyed a region thousands of kilometers across, but also threw up a dust cloud that obscured sunlight for years. That blocked photosynthesis in plants – the base of the food chain – and eventually starved out the dinosaurs.

Researchers now think that the asteroid strike that created the K-T boundary was probably the Chicxulub Crater. This is a massive impact crater buried under Chicxulub on the coast of Yucatan, Mexico. The crater measures 180 kilometers across, and occurred about 65 million years ago.

Geologists aren’t completely in agreement about the connection between the Chicxulub impact and the extinction of the dinosaurs. Some believe that other catastrophic events might have helped push the dinosaurs over the edge, such as massive volcanism, or a series of impact events.

We have written many articles about the K-T boundary for Universe Today. Here’s an article about how the dinosaurs probably weren’t wiped out by a single asteroid, and here’s an article about how asteroids and volcanoes might have done the trick.

Here’s more information from the USGS, and an article from NASA.

We have recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast all about asteroid impacts. Listen to it here: Episode 29: Asteroids Make Bad Neighbors.


NASA Doesn’t Receive Enough Money for Mandated Asteroid Search

Planet Killer
Artist's conception of an asteroid hitting Earth.

In 2005, the US Congress mandated that NASA discover 90 percent of all near-Earth objects 140 meters in diameter or greater by 2020. But they forgot one minor detail: Congress or the administration did not request or appropriate any new funds to meet this objective, and with NASA’s existing budget, there is no way NASA can meet the mandated goal.

Does anyone else see a pattern here?

“For the first time, humanity has the capacity and the audacity to avoid a natural disaster,” says Irwin Shapiro of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass., who headed a National Research Council panel to asses NASA’s progress in reaching the asteroid detection goal . “It really is a question of how much to invest in an insurance policy for the planet.”

NASA was also directed by the Bush administration to build spacecraft to return to the Moon, and perhaps go on to Mars, but do the job (as well as complete the space station and make sure the shuttles can fly safely) with no real increase in budget.

From the report:

Currently, the U.S. government spends a relatively small amount of money funding a search and survey program to discover and track near-Earth objects, and virtually no money on studying methods of mitigating the hazards posed by such objects. Although Congress has mandated that NASA conduct this survey program and has established goals for the program, neither Congress nor the administration has sought to fund it with new appropriations. As a result, NASA has supported this activity by taking funds from other programs, while still leaving a substantial gap between the goals established by Congress and the funds needed to achieve them.

The report is available here (download the free pdf version)

But in summary, the report says that since only limited facilities are currently involved in the asteroid survey/discovery effort, NASA cannot meet the goals of the Congressional mandate on the existing budget. Instead, the three current survey efforts dedicated to the problem, supported at current levels, will likely find only about 15%.

The report also says that Harvard-Smithsonian’s Minor Planet Center is more than capable of handling the observations of the congressionally mandated survey, but there isn’t enough funds for adequate staffing.

If this is true, the facilities to do the job appear to be in place, and no new observatories need to be built or spacecraft need to be launched. How much more money would it take to hire enough people?

However, only three surveys are currently involved in the search (Catalina Sky Survey, Spacewatch and Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research), and the panel suggests that more telescopes and spacecraft would be beneficial to the search. Several ground-based telescopes have been proposed or are currently under development that could contribute substantially to meeting the goal established by Congress. However, none has yet been fully funded, nor principally dedicated to the NEO discovery goal.

Right now, the US is the only country that currently has an operating survey/detection program for discovering near-Earth objects. Canada and Germany are both building spacecraft that may contribute to the discovery of near-Earth objects, but neither mission will detect fainter or smaller objects than ground-based telescopes.

But the US isn’t alone in the non-funding of asteroid searches. “Virtually no international funds are spent supporting ground-based NEO surveys, and international NEO discovery efforts are largely conducted on an ad hoc, voluntary, or amateur basis. NASA is the agency that has funded more than 97 percent of the discoveries of NEOs in the last decade,” says the report.

Sources: USA Today, National Acadamies Press

Near-Earth Object Has Two Moons

Radar imaging at NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar on June 12 and 14, 2009, revealed that near-Earth asteroid 1994 CC is a triple system. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/GSSR

Radar images have shown that a near-Earth object is actually a triple system; an asteroid with two small moons. NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar on June 12 and 14, 2009, revealed the new informaton about Asteroid 1994 CC. It came within 2.52 million kilometers (1.56 million miles) on June 10. Prior to the flyby, very little was known about this celestial body. 1994 CC is only the second triple system known in the near-Earth population. A team led by Marina Brozovic and Lance Benner, both scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., made the discovery.

Asteroid 1994 CC encountered Earth within 2.52 million kilometers (1.56 million miles) on June 10. Prior to the flyby, very little was known about this celestial body. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/GSSR
Asteroid 1994 CC encountered Earth within 2.52 million kilometers (1.56 million miles) on June 10. Prior to the flyby, very little was known about this celestial body. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/GSSR

1994 CC consists of a central object about 700 meters (2,300 feet) in diameter that has two smaller moons revolving around it. Preliminary analysis suggests that the two small satellites are at least 50 meters (164 feet) in diameter. Radar observations at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, led by the center’s director Mike Nolan, also detected all three objects, and the combined observations from Goldstone and Arecibo will be utilized by JPL scientists and their colleagues to study 1994 CC’s orbital and physical properties.

The next comparable Earth flyby for asteroid 1994 CC will occur in the year 2074 when the space rock trio flies past Earth at a distance of two-and-a-half million kilometers (1.6 million miles).

Of the hundreds of near-Earth asteroids observed by radar, only about 1 percent are triple systems.

Source: JPL

Half Comet-Half Asteroid a Fluke? Nope

Images of known MBCs from UH 2.2-meter telescope data. Credit: Henry Hsieh

Back in 1996, astronomers discovered a strange object in the asteroid belt. They decided it was either a “lost” comet or an icy asteroid, as it ejected dust like a comet but had an orbit like an asteroid. No one had ever seen anything like the object, called 133P. Ever since it was found, astronomers have wondered if it was just an oddity — one of a kind. We now know it is not, and the discovery of more of these half asteroids/half comets means there is a new class of objects in our solar system.

One of these new objecst, 176P/LINEAR is also emitting dust as it orbits in the asteroid belt. It was found by Henry Hsieh at Queen’s University, Belfast in Northern Ireland. Hsieh has been working to figure out the unusual behavior of 133P. He hypothesized that either one of two things could explain the existence of the comet-asteroid: “(1.) 133P is a classical comet from the outer solar system that has evolved onto a main-belt orbit, or (2.) 133P is a dynamically ordinary main-belt asteroid on which subsurface ice has recently been exposed,” Hsieh wrote in his paper. “If (1) is correct, the expected rarity of a dynamical transition onto an asteroidal orbit implies that 133P could be alone in the main belt. In contrast, if (2) is correct, other icy main-belt objects should exist and could also exhibit cometary activity.”

Hsieh thought it was unlikely a comet could have been kicked around enough to end up in orbit in the asteroid belt, so he followed the assumption that 133P was a dynamically ordinary, yet icy main-belt asteroid. He set out to prove the hypothesis that 133P-like objects should be common and could be found by an well-designed observational survey.

Hsieh made 657 observations of 599 asteroids in the asteroid belt and found 176P/LINEAR. He also determined the asteroid is partially made of ice, which is being ejected following a collision with another object, thus the comet-like attributes.

Additionally, since there is evidence for past and even present water in main-belt asteroids, Hsieh says statistically there should be around 100 currently active Main Belt Comets (MBCs) as these objects are called, among the kilometer-scale, low-inclination, outer belt asteroid population.

The Technology Review blog offered suggestions for what to name these new objects that are half comet and half asteroid: “Comsteroids? Asteromets? Hsiehroids?”

Hseih’s paper,
Hseih’s website on MBCs
Sources: Technology Review Blog, arXiv

Keep Track of NEOs with New “Asteroid Watch” Website

With the recent impact on Jupiter, a lot of people out there have asteroids on their mind and wonder if one could possibly hit Earth. Now, NASA and JPL have a new website called “Asteroid Watch” which will keep everyone updated if any object approaches Earth. They’ve also created an Asteroid Watch Twitter account that Tweet updates on NEOs, plus there’s a downloadable widget as well.

“The goal of our Web site is to provide the public with the most up-to-date and accurate information on these intriguing objects,” said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL.

“This innovative new Web application gives the public an unprecedented look at what’s going on in near-Earth space,” said Lindley Johnson, program executive for the Near-Earth Objects Observation program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Information is garnered from surveys and missions that detect and track asteroids and comets passing close to Earth. The Near-Earth Object Observation Program, commonly called “Spaceguard,” also plots the orbits of these objects to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

There’s also another non-NASA Twitter feed called lowflyingrocks that lets you know about every Near Earth Object that passes within 0.2AU of Earth.

Source: JPL