07:08 AM

USRA Planetary Scientists to Observe Large Asteroid Passing Near Earth-Moon System

The Arecibo Planetary Radar system operating as a part of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, has been monitoring the trajectory of Asteroid 2005 YU55 since April of 2010. Planetary radars are keeping watch over 2005 YU55, an asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier, as it heads for a November 8th flyby of the Earth-Moon system. Earth's close encounter with Asteroid 2005 YU 55 will occur at 6:28 p.m. EST (2328 GMT) on Tuesday, November 8, as the space rock sails about 201,000 miles (323,469 km) from the planet.

There is no danger to our planet. In fact, the asteroid will have no detectable effect on Earth - gravitational or otherwise. Although the asteroid is in an orbit that brings it the closest it has come for at least the last 200 years, the object poses no hazard to Earth through at least 2041 and probably much longer.

The observations in 2010 measured the distance to the asteroid at a resolution of 7.5 meters, about 25 feet, when it was over a million miles away. Asteroid 2005 YU55 was listed on NASA's "Sentry Risk Page" as having as small (about one in 10 million) chance of hitting the Earth in the next century. Previous to April 2010, several hundred optical observations over 5 years had identified potential Earth impacts.

"During this transit YU55 will be closer to the Earth than the Moon, allowing it to be studied in much better detail than previously," said Dr. Zaven Arzoumanian, USRA's Director for astronomy at Arecibo.

The asteroid will not be visible to the naked eye. Amateur astronomers might be able to photograph it during the hours around closest approach. Visit http://spaceweather.com for observing tips and more information.

The National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, the Arecibo Observatory, preeminent for its research in astronomy, planetary studies, and space and atmospheric sciences, is the world's largest and most sensitive single-dish radio telescope. The Arecibo Observatory is managed by the Arecibo Managing Partners, SRI International in Menlo Park, CA, USRA in Columbia, MD and Universidad Metropolitana in San Juan, Puerto Rico under a Cooperative Agreement with the National Science Foundation.

Founded in 1969, USRA is an independent research corporation with competencies that span space, Earth, and life sciences related disciplines, which are closely aligned with the nation's science and national security agencies. As a non-profit corporation with 105 major research university members, USRA's scientific and technical staff collaborate with over 400 universities annually. This depth of reach into the research community provides a unique platform for advancing science and technology.