For people who are even slightly familiar with the solar system, it is common knowledge that Earth is in the middle of a cosmic shooting gallery with millions upon millions of asteroids constantly hurtling through the solar system at almost unimaginable speeds. Yesterday, it was announced that, come November, earth is going to have a close encounter with an asteroid that could do major damage should it impact.
Fortunately, though, the asteroid will pass Earth with about 200,000 miles to spare, thus posing no threat to our world. However, being so large and so close, it may be possible to see the asteroid with the human eye, skies permitting.
Asteroid YU2005 is about 1,300 feet, or about a quarter mile, wide. In fact, in making a passage within the Moon’s orbit, it will be the largest asteroid to make such a close pass until 2028, unless of course a bigger one is discovered in the intervening time. As for beyond November, Don Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, said that YU2005 will pose no threat for at least 100 years, so consider yourself safe.
Still, the asteroid will be coming close enough to warrant intense study from scientists, who plan to use both radar and optical imaging to try and get a close look at the space rock. As for amateur observers, keep an eye on the weather forecast as the asteroid could reach 11th magnitude for a period of several hours before fading back into the darkness of space.
As for asteroids themselves, most lie in the Main Asteroid Belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter. In the Early solar system, dust was everywhere. In time, dust particles started colliding and clumping together. As the groups of gravitationally-bound space debris got bigger and bigger, they attracted most of the loose space debris in the solar system toform the planets. However, for reasons unknown, the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter never coalesced into a planet, thus resulting in the Asteroid Belt. Occasionally, asteroids collide, sending both out of the belt and flying on random trajectories through space, which is almost certainly what happened with YU2005.
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