The huge asteroid 2005 YU55 will sweep closely past the Earth – missing us by 319,000 kilometers (about 200,000 miles) – tomorrow. It’ll be the closest known passage of an asteroid this big – but there was an even closer passage to Earth of this same asteroid in 1976, which went undetected. This time, astronomers spotted it ahead of time.
On this November 8, 2011 passage, 2005 YU55 will come closer than the moon’s distance from Earth, but it will not strike Earth or the moon.
The time of closest passage will be November 8 at 5:28 p.m. CST (23:28 UTC).
During the spacecraft’s approach, the Earth appeared as a crescent. This image of the Earth was taken around the same time by the OSIRIS camera on Rosetta. Credit: ESA 2009 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
On November 13, the European Space Agency’s comet orbiter spacecraft, Rosetta, swooped by Earth for its third and final gravity assist on the way to humankind’s first rendezvous to orbit and study a comet in more detail than has ever been attempted.
One of the instruments aboard Rosetta is the NASA-funded ultraviolet spectrometer, Alice, which is designed to probe the composition of the comet’s atmosphere and surface – the first ultraviolet spectrometer ever to study a comet up close. During Rosetta’s recent Earth flyby, researchers successfully tested Alice’s performance by viewing the Earth’s ultraviolet appearance.
“It’s been over five years since Rosetta was launched on its 10-year journey to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and Alice is working well,” says instrument Principal Investigator Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute.
“As one can see from the spectra we obtained during this flyby of the Earth, the instrument is in focus and shows the main ultraviolet spectral emission of our home planet. These data give a nice indication of the scientifically rich value of ultraviolet spectroscopy for studying the atmospheres of objects in space, and we’re looking forward to reaching the comet and exploring its mysteries.”
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Russia is considering a project to launch a spaceship to try to divert a large asteroid from hitting Earth after 2030, the head of the country’s space program said today.
Anatoly Perminov, head of Roscosmos, tells Voice of Russia radio that Moscow may invite experts from Europe, the United States and China to join the project aimed at thwarting the menacing asteroid Apophis.
“People’s lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred million dollars and design a system that would prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people,” Perminov says, according to RIA Novosti news agency.
He says it is his understanding that the 850-foot asteroid “will surely collide with the Earth in the 2030s.”