- (Photo: NASA)
Tuesday a huge asteroid, named 2005YU5, is reported to pass by Earth. Although it poses no threat of hitting Earth, scientists are using the opportunity to study the 1,300 feet (400 meters) wide asteroid.
"This is not a potentially hazardous asteroid, just a good opportunity to study one," said National Science Foundation astronomer Thomas Statler.
The JPL, which tracks objects in space, says Asteroid 2005 YU55 will be at the closest point to Earth at 6:28 p.m. ET.
David Rabinowitz, a planetary scientist at Yale, estimates that asteroids the size of YU55 come this close to the Earth about once every 100 years, and one this large hits the Earth only every few 100,000 years.
The 1,200-foot-wide space rock will be traveling at about 29,000 mph when it passes Earth at a distance of 201,700 miles, or almost 7,000 miles closer than the moon.
YU55 is on course to miss the moon as well as Earth, and spectators won't be able to see it zoom by with the naked eye. The flyby will mark the closest such a big space rock has come to Earth since 1976.
Astronomer, Robert McMillan, of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, discovered the asteroid in 2005. The YU55 derives its name from the year and month in which it was found - similar to other astronomical objects immediately after their discovery.
"When you look through a telescope, asteroids don't look any different from stars," McMillan said in a statement. "The only difference is that they're moving, and to detect that motion we have to take a series of images. Usually we take three images spaced 20 or 30 minutes apart."
For those looking for the next close encounter with an asteroid, the next event will not happen again until 2028 when an asteroid called 2001 WN5 will skim about halfway between the Moon and Earth.