NASA in final preparations for Nov. 8 asteroid flyby

Oct 27, 2011
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

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA scientists will be tracking asteroid 2005 YU55 with antennas of the agency's Deep Space Network at Goldstone, Calif., as the space rock safely flies past Earth slightly closer than the moon's orbit on Nov. 8. Scientists are treating the flyby of the 1,300-foot-wide (400-meter) asteroid as a science target of opportunity - allowing instruments on "spacecraft Earth" to scan it during the close pass.

Tracking of the aircraft carrier-sized asteroid will begin at 9:30 a.m. local time (PDT) on Nov. 4, using the massive 70-meter (230-foot) antenna, and last for about two hours. The asteroid will continue to be tracked by Goldstone for at least four hours each day from Nov. 6 through Nov. 10. Radar observations from the Arecibo Planetary Radar Facility in Puerto Rico will begin on Nov. 8, the same day the asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth at 3:28 p.m. PST.

The trajectory of asteroid 2005 YU55 is well understood. At the point of closest approach, it will be no closer than 201,700 miles (324,600 kilometers) or 0.85 the distance from the moon to Earth. The of the asteroid will have no detectable effect on anything here on Earth, including our planet's tides or . Although 2005 YU55 is in an orbit that regularly brings it to the vicinity of Earth (and Venus and Mars), the 2011 encounter with Earth is the closest this has come for at least the last 200 years.

Animation of the trajectory for asteroid 2005 YU55 - November 8-9, 2011. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

During tracking, scientists will use the Goldstone and Arecibo antennas to bounce off the space rock. Radar echoes returned from 2005 YU55 will be collected and analyzed. NASA scientists hope to obtain images of the asteroid from Goldstone as fine as about 7 feet (2 meters) per pixel. This should reveal a wealth of detail about the asteroid's surface features, shape, dimensions and other physical properties.

Arecibo of asteroid 2005 YU55 made in 2010 show it to be approximately spherical in shape. It is slowly spinning, with a rotation period of about 18 hours. The asteroid's surface is darker than charcoal at optical wavelengths. Amateur astronomers who want to get a glimpse at YU55 will need a telescope with an aperture of 6 inches (15 centimeters) or larger.

The last time a space rock as big came as close to Earth was in 1976, although astronomers did not know about the at the time. The next known approach of an asteroid this large will be in 2028.

NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

Explore further: Observing the onset of a magnetic substorm

Related Stories

Spacecraft Earth to perform asteroid 'flyby' this fall

May 03, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Since the dawn of the space age, humanity has sent 16 robotic emissaries to fly by some of the solar system's most intriguing and nomadic occupants -- comets and asteroids. The data and imagery ...

Radar Clicks Asteroid's Pic

Apr 30, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Near-Earth asteroid 2005 YU55 was "imaged" by the Arecibo Radar Telescope in Puerto Rico on April 19. Data collected during Arecibo's observation of 2005 YU55 allowed the Near-Earth Object ...

NASA Scientists Get First Images of Earth Flyby Asteroid

Jan 28, 2008

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have obtained the first images of asteroid 2007 TU24 using high-resolution radar data. The data indicate the asteroid is somewhat asymmetrical ...

Features on asteroid revealed by radar

Jan 12, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Radar imaging at NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar in the California desert on Dec. 11 and 12, 2010, revealed defining characteristics of recently discovered asteroid 2010 JL33. The images ...

Small asteroid to pass within Earth-Moon system Tuesday

Oct 11, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A small asteroid will fly past Earth early Tuesday within the Earth-moon system. The asteroid, 2010 TD54, will have its closest approach to Earth's surface at an altitude of about 45,000 kilometers ...

Recommended for you

Observing the onset of a magnetic substorm

2 hours ago

Magnetic substorms, the disruptions in geomagnetic activity that cause brightening of aurora, may sometimes be driven by a different process than generally thought, a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Ph ...

We are all made of stars

4 hours ago

Astronomers spend most of their time contemplating the universe, quite comfortable in the knowledge that we are just a speck among billions of planets, stars and galaxies. But last week, the Australian astronomical ...

ESA video: The ATV-5 Georges Lemaitre loading process

4 hours ago

This time-lapse video shows the ATV-5 Georges Lemaitre loading process and its integration on the Ariane 5 launcher before its transfer and launch to the International Space Station from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French ...

Titan's subsurface reservoirs modify methane rainfall

7 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The international Cassini mission has revealed hundreds of lakes and seas spread across the icy surface of Saturn's moon Titan, mostly in its polar regions. These lakes are filled not with water ...

User comments : 0