Asteroid to pass inside moon’s orbit, but scientists see no chance of impact with Earth or moon.Jerusalem Post - CAPE CANAVERAL – A huge asteroid will pass closer to Earth than the moon on Tuesday, giving scientists a rare chance for study without having to go through the time and expense of launching a probe, officials said.
Earth’s close encounter with Asteroid 2005 YU 55 will occur at 6:28 p.m. EST on Tuesday, as the space rock sails about 201,000 miles (323,469 km) from the planet.
“It is the first time since 1976 that an object of this size has passed this closely to the Earth. It gives us a great – and rare – chance to study a near-Earth object like this,” astronomer Scott Fisher, a program director with the National Science Foundation, said on Thursday during a Web chat with reporters.
The orbit and position of the asteroid, which is about 1,312 feet (400 meters) in diameter, is well known, added senior research scientist Don Yeomans, with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
“There is no chance that this object will collide with the Earth or moon,” Yeomans said.
Thousands of amateur and professional astronomers are expected to track YU 55′s approach, which will be visible from the planet’s northern hemisphere. It will be too dim to be seen with the naked eye, however, and it will be moving too fast for viewing by the Hubble Space Telescope. More