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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Giant asteroid to pass close to Earth Tuesday.

This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 Monday showed it 3.6 lunar distances (860,000 miles or 1.38 million km) from Earth.
This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 Monday showed it 3.6 lunar distances (860,000 miles or 1.38 million km) from Earth.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The closest approach will occur at 6:28 p.m. ET Tuesday
  • The asteroid will pass within 202,000 miles of Earth, NASA says
  • The space rock poses no threat of an Earth collision
(CNN) -- An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier will pass Earth to within eight-tenths of the distance of the moon Tuesday, the closest approach to Earth of an object this size in more than 30 years.
The closest approach will occur at 6:28 p.m. ET when the asteroid passes within 202,000 miles of our planet, NASA said.
The space agency classified the asteroid as a "potentially hazardous object."
If the asteroid were to crash into Earth, it could cause a 4,000 megaton blast and a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, according to scientists at Purdue University. If it fell into the ocean, it could cause a 70-foot high tsunami within 60 miles of the crash site, the experts said.
However, the space rock, called Asteroid 2005 YU55, poses no threat of an Earth collision, according to NASA's Near Earth Object Program.
NASA plans to study the asteroid with the Goldstone radar antennas in California's Mojave Desert. Goldstone antennas are very sensitive radio telescopes used to investigate quasars, radar mapping of planets and comets.
Scientists plan to reconstruct the shape of the asteroid with a resolution as fine as 13 feet (4 meters) using the antennas. Several days of high resolution operations are also scheduled at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
It will also provide a rare opportunity for amateur astronomers to directly observe an asteroid with optical telescopes.