April 10, 2011

CLOSE: Huge Asteroid To Pass Near Earth In November. “It’s the case of asteroid 2005 YU55, a round mini-world that is about 1,300 feet (400 meters) in diameter. In early November, this asteroid will approach Earth within a scant 0.85 lunar distances. Due the object’s size and whisking by so close to Earth, an extensive campaign of radar, visual and infrared observations are being planned. Asteroid 2005 YU55 was discovered by Spacewatch at the University of Arizona, Tucson’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory on Dec. 28, 2005. En route and headed our way, the cosmic wanderer is another reminder about life here on our sitting duck of a planet.”

UPDATE: Reader Ross James emails:

Do you remember in Lucifer’s Hammer, when Dr. Sharps is on the Tonight Show, he talks about the bounty of space, specifically the asteroids. He says, “It’s raining soup and we don’t even have a bowl”. I don’t know the composition of this asteroid, but it is passing right by us, we don’t even have to go to the Belt to get it. I know we can’t do anything about it yet, but maybe in the future one of the private companies can capture one of these things and mine it in Earth’s orbit.

That would be nice, though I guess if I owned mines on earth I’d object, and try to find ways to block it. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails: “FYI the ‘2005’ in 2005 YU55 means that’s when a human first spotted this 400-meter object due to stage a near-Earth flyby just 6 years later. Good thing it wasn’t aimed at us. What on Earth would we do then? Theoretically we could shoot it. Better hope you break it into small enough bits so you don’t get hit with a shotgun blast. Or nudge it, provided we have a space program geared up for that sort of thing.”

Yes, “Spacewatch” is about noticing this kind of thing. Doing something about it is someone else’s problem, alas. Maybe once the Falcon Heavy is flying . . . .

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