An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier will reportedly swing near earth on November 8, avoiding an impact that would certainly disrupt plans for many living around the globe.
The asteroid, designated 2005 YU55, will pass Earth at a distance of about 325,000 kilometers, just inside the orbit of the moon, according to scientists.
Officials say an asteroid of that magnitude striking Earth would likely result in a 4,000-megaton blast. The blast would likely decimate a large city. The impact alone could create a crater nearly 3 miles in diameter and upwards of a mile deep. The impact would likely result in a tidal wave nearly 70 feet high.
That said, Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said the asteroid does not pose a threat and that an asteroid of this size is unlikely to strike earth within the next one-hundred years.
Mr. Yeomans said officials at NASA plan on observing the asteroid as it approaches and passes earth.
“During its closest approach, its gravitational effect on the Earth will be so minuscule as to be immeasurable. It will not affect the tides or anything else,” he said.
NASA officials note that the last time an asteroid this big came this close to Earth was 1976. The next known approach of such a large asteroid will be in 2028. In the meantime, NASA has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to launch spacecraft intended to chart the paths of asteroids larger than .6 miles in diameter. NASA officials say the projects has allowed them to track most objects of that size, however, objects measuring more than .6 miles remain out of the field of vision.
Meanwhile, NASA issued a statement reassuring the public, saying they were well aware of the asteroid’s trajectory, noting that plans are currently in place to observe the asteroid as it comes closer. NASA officials say asteroid impacts on earth of this magnitude are fairly rare, occurring only once every 100,000 years.
Scientists say stargazers will not be able to view the asteroid during its flyby. The asteroid will approach Earth from the sunward direction, so it will be a daylight object until just before the time of closest approach.
The latest flyby for the asteroid comes just six years after it was discovered by Robert McMillan at Steward Observatory’s Spacewatch Telescope in Arizona.