Giant Honkin’ Space Boulder To Just Miss Earth In NovemberApril 7, 2011 at 7:11 am | Posted in Science News | 6 Comments
That’s right! For all those specials you ever watched on The Discovery Channel or on The Science Channel that tells of the possibility of a gigantic meteor crashing into the Earth that you dismissed as folly, you are about to get an up close and personal look at one come November of this year.
This behemoth planet rocker was discovered by the good folks manning Spacewatch at the University of Arizona, Tucson’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory on Dec. 28, 2005. It has been designated asteroid 2005 YU55 and it is an impressive 400 meters in diameter. If an asteroid that size were to hit the Earth at a reasonably estimated 30,000 miles an hour it would be the equivalent of roughly a 300,000 megaton blast. That would be enough to flatten just about everything in a 75 mile radius of the blast site. Those not fortunate enough to perish in the initial explosion could then look forward to a slower, more agonizing death as the cloud of dust and moisture the impact spewed into the atmosphere would almost certainly and rather quickly usher in the next ice age as it blots out the sun.
Fortunately this time around it looks like 2005 YU55 will avoid becoming Lucifer’s Hammer but it is coming close. How close? Very, very, scary close. That’s how close. It will be coming within 200,000 miles of Earth. It will actually come between the Earth and moon and be only about 80% of the distance from Earth as the moon. On a cosmic scale that is way too close for comfort.
This isn’t the first time 2005 YU55 has paid us a visit either. It came withing 1,500,000 miles of Earth in April of 2010 and will deign to come even closer when it returns again 2028. Scarier still is that we didn’t even notice it when it first put Earth in it’s cross hairs way back in 1976 until it was already on it’s way past. At that time it actually managed to come within around 100,000 miles of this precious little blue marble we call home. Now the good folks at U of A and NASA tend to keep a closer eye on this baby.
For those who wish to observe our collective moment of justifiable sphincter tightening it may be possible to do so late in the day (Universal Time) on the 8TH and into the early morning hours of the 9TH of November where the asteroid will slowly climb to a magnitude 11 on the visual magnitude scale. That means it falls somewhere between not seeing it with binoculars and just barely seeing it with an 8 inch backyard telescope. Anything larger than that will of course provide a better view.
Despite all our near misses it does look like our luck is due to hold in the near future. The asteroid 2005 YU55 will not be back for another pass until 2028 when it will not even make it inside the moon’s orbit and subsequent passes bring it further from us still. Given that we have full knowledge of it’s existence and a good grasp of it’s flight path I would go so far as to say that even if it were on a collision course with our planet, we would certainly have the time and the resources to put a plan into effect that might deflect this beast. So get out those backyard telescopes and get ready to feel superior to the dinosaurs. They may have been able to shred a buffalo in seconds with their giant face daggers but they couldn’t stop the space rocks of death like we can.
For more information on 2005 YU55 or if you perhaps just prefer a more serious and scientific take on the subject you can read an excellent article on it at one of my favorite web sites, Space.com.