A couple of awesome space geekery things to watch. This is your SpacePod for November 7th, 2011
It’s time to dust off those telescopes! For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll have a great chance to see Asteroid 2005 YU 55.
Measuring in at around 400 meters in diameter, or about the size of an aircraft carrier, not only will YU 55 be coming close to Earth, but it will actually be about 15% closer to Earth than our own Moon!
On Tuesday, November 8th at 23:28 UTC which is 6:28pm EST amateur and professional astronomers from around the world will have a chance to glimpse this giant space rock.
Getting as close as 319,000 kilometers to Earth, this is the first time since 1976 that an object this large has come this close to our planet. But this isn’t the first time that we have been able to observe this asteroid.
In April of 2010 YU55 made a close enough approach that the Arecibo (airy-see-bow) Observatory was able to get this radar image.
To get your best view you’ll want to be on the Northern Hemisphere, ideally on the Eastern coast of the United States. The best time for viewing is early evening.
You won’t be able to see this with the naked eye, so grab your medium to large telescope, or if you don’t have one hit up a friend or observatory for your chance to see this. YU55 is blacker than charcoal and scientists believe it is made up of mostly carbon based materials as well as some silicate rock. More information about its composition and structure are expected from radar and chemical studies as it passes by Earth.
For your doomsdayers out there, no YU55 will not hit Earth. We’re safe for at least the next 100 years from this particular asteroid. It also won’t be hitting our moon, so lets put that rumor to bed as well. This is just a great chance to see something awesome in the night sky.
One other fun thing to watch right before YU55 will be the launch of Phobos-Grunt which will takeoff on November 8th at 20:16 UTC.
Phobos-Grunt is a Roscosmos mission to get samples from Phobos and return them to Earth. Phobos is the largest moon of Mars. This is to be the first interplanetary mission for Roscosmos since the failed Mars 96 in 1996.
It’s looking to be a fun couple of days! Make sure to tweet your star gazing and rocket watching pictures to @spacevidcast so we can share the awesomeness with other space geeks!