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Thursday, October 27, 2011

More on Huge Asteroid Flyby November 8

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Asteroid 2005 YU55 is a slow rotator. Because of its size and proximity to Earth, the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., has designated the space rock as a “potentially hazardous asteroid.” [5 Reasons to Care About Asteroids]
Animation of the trajectory for asteroid 2005 YU55 - November 8-9, 2011.
Click for larger Image - Animation
                          Animation of the trajectory for asteroid 2005 YU55 
                        November 8-9, 2011. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Dishing it out

“We’re already preparing for the 2005 YU55 flyby,” said Lance Benner, a research scientist at JPL and a specialist on radar imaging of near-Earth objects. He said part of the plan is to observe the asteroid with radar using both the huge Arecibo dish in Puerto Rico and equipment at Goldstone.

“The asteroid will approach from the south, so Goldstone has the first chance to observe it due to its declination coverage,” Benner told

To help coordinate the observing campaigns, “Radar Observations Planning” websites have been set up for this unusual occasion, Benner said.

“This flyby will be the closest by any near-Earth asteroid with an absolute magnitude this bright since 1976 and until 2028,” Benner added. “Having said that, nobody saw 2010 XC15 during its close flyby within 0.5 lunar distance in 1976,” he said, noting that this asteroid wasn’t discovered until late in 2010.  

“Thus, the flyby by 2005 YU55 will be the closest actually observed by something this large, so it represents a unique opportunity,” Benner said. “In a real sense, this will provide imaging resolution comparable to or even better than a spacecraft mission flyby.” 

Radar paint

Benner said that because the asteroid is zooming by Earth so very close, radar echoes will be extremely strong. One facility at Goldstone will be used to transmit and “radar paint” the object…another Goldstone dish is on tap to snag the reflected echo of radar data.

What can radar do?

Information collected by this technique, for example, can be transformed into 3-D shapes, with surface features and spin rates identified. The asteroid’s roughness and density can also be assessed. Furthermore, radar can improve the whereabouts of the object. By greatly shrinking uncertainties for newly discovered meandering NEOs, that in turn enables motion prediction for decades to centuries.

As for seeing the asteroid with small telescopes, start getting your gear ready.
Initially, the object will be too close to the sun and too faint for optical observers. But late in the day (Universal Time) on Nov. 8, the solar elongation will grow sufficiently to see it. Early on Nov. 9, the asteroid could reach about 11th magnitude for several hours before it fades as its distance rapidly increases, Benner explained.

Leonard David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. He is past editor-in-chief of the National Space Society's Ad Astra and Space World magazines and has written for since 1999.



2005 YU55, also written as 2005 YU55, is a potentially hazardous asteroid[2] that is 400 meters in diameter.[3][4] It was discovered on 28 December 2005 by Robert S. McMillan at Steward Observatory, Kitt Peak.[1]
In February 2010 it was rated 1 on the Torino Scale. On 19 April 2010, highly accurate radar targeting by the Arecibo radio telescope reduced uncertainties about the orbit by 50 percent.[4] This improvement eliminated any possibility of an impact with the Earth for the next 100 years.[4] It was removed from the Sentry Risk Table on 22 April 2010.[5]
On 8 November 2011 at 23:28 UT, the asteroid will safely pass within 0.85 lunar distances of the Earth.[3] A lunar distance of 0.85 is also 0.00217 AU (325,000 km; 202,000 mi).[3] On 9 November 2011 at 07:13 UT, the asteroid will pass 0.00160 AU (239,000 km; 149,000 mi) from the moon. During the close approach, the asteroid should reach about apparent magnitude 11,[3][6] and may be visible to expert observers using high-end binoculars with an objective lens of 80mm or larger. Amateur observers trying to visually locate the asteroid will need a telescope with an aperture of 6 inches (15 centimeters) or larger.[7]
The next time a known asteroid this large will come this close to Earth will be in 2028[7] when (153814) 2001 WN5 passes 0.00166 AU (248,000km; 154,000 mi) from the Earth.[8]
On 19 January 2029 2005 YU55 will pass about 0.0019 AU (280,000 km; 180,000 mi) from Venus.[9]

Apr 20, 2011
... Earthquakes? Tornados? Disasters? Wednesday, April 20, 2011. Alert: Huge Asteroid Encounter Due in November-Update. What is bigger than Apophis and will arrive on November 8, 2011? 2005 YU55 on 11-8.11. Asteroid 2005 YU55. ...

Aug 31, 2011
Still, two scenarios may be considered: One is that 2005 YU55 might have an effect on the debris tail of Elenin while the second is that one, or both, could have their orbits changed to move right up there with Apophis which ...

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