Monday, November 07, 2011

Now they Tell Us

Remember several months ago there was an asteroid that came close to the earth? Well, it was not in the news until the event had passed. Now I am scared about 2005YU55! The astronomers assure us that tomorrow the asteroid will be closer than the moon, but have no fear - the scientists promise it will not hit the earth.

Here's the update:

A huge asteroid about the size of an aircraft carrier will zoom past our planet tomorrow, coming between Earth and the orbit of the moon when it flies by.

The space rock, called asteroid 2005YU55, poses no threat to Earth but will be observed by excited astronomers around the world. It's about 1,300 feet (400 meters) wide, round and blacker than coal, NASA scientists said.

At its closest point, the asteroid will pass earth at a range of about 201,700 miles (324,600 kilometers) on Tuesday at 6:28 p.m. ET. The average distance between the moon and Earth is about 238,854 miles (384,399 kilometers).

"This is particularly exciting, since it is the first time since 1976 that an object of this size has passed this closely to the Earth," Scott Fisher, a program director of the National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences, said during an NSF webchat organized Thursday by ScienceNow. "It gives us a great (and rare!) chance to study a near-Earth object like this. In fact, we have several telescopes set up and ready to observe this event already."

Those telescopes include the giant Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico and several NASA Deep Space Network instruments.

No chance of hitting Earth

Yeomans, Fisher and other astronomers have stressed that the public should not be concerned about asteroid 2005 YU55 impacting Earth or causing any kind of gravitational effects on our planet during the flyby. The space rock is much too small to influence life on Earth from its position in space and its chances of actually hitting the planet are nil.

"There is no reason to worry about YU55 getting caught up in the gravity of the earth," Fisher said. "Through our observations of the object, we know that there is no chance of it impacting either the earth or the moon for at least the next 100 years."

I am relaxed in the scientific assurances. HOWEVER -according to Jay Melosh, a Purdue University asteroid impact expert, if an object of similar size collides with Earth it would result in a 4,000-megaton blast, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake and, if it struck in the deep ocean, 70-foot-high tsunami waves 60 miles from where the splashdown will happen.

Have a great cosmic day! Worry not!


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