Asteroid near miss – the movie

There’s no danger that the asteroid will strike Earth, but Sky and Telescope reports that if it did, it would “deliver a kinetic-energy punch equivalent to several thousand megatons of TNT … the kind of potential threat that outer-space sentries lose sleep over.”

PASADENA, Calif. — Scientists working with the 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., have generated a short movie clip of asteroid 2005 YU55. The images were generated from data collected at Goldstone on Nov. 7, 2011, between 11:24 a.m. and 1:35 p.m. PST (2:24 p.m. and 4:35 p.m. EST). They are the highest-resolution images ever generated by radar of a near-Earth object.

Each of the six frames required 20 minutes of data collection by the Goldstone radar. At the time, 2005 YU55 was approximately 860,000 miles (1.38 million kilometers) away from Earth. Resolution is 4 meters per pixel.

“The movie shows the small subset of images obtained at Goldstone on November 7 that have finished processing. By animating a sequence of radar images, we can see more surface detail than is visible otherwise,” said radar astronomer Lance Benner, the principal investigator for the 2005 YU55 observations, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “The animation reveals a number of puzzling structures on the surface that we don’t yet understand. To date, we’ve seen less than one half of the surface, so we expect more surprises.”

The trajectory of asteroid 2005 YU55 is well understood. At the point of closest approach today at 3:28 p.m. PST (6:28 p.m. EST/2328 UTC), it was no closer than 201,700 miles (324,600 kilometers), as measured from the center of Earth. The gravitational influence of the asteroid will have no detectable effect on anything here on Earth, including our planet’s tides or tectonic plates. Although 2005 YU55 is in an orbit that regularly brings it to the vicinity of Earth (and Venus and Mars), the 2011 encounter with Earth is the closest this space rock has come for at least the last 200 years.

The last time a space rock as big came as close to Earth was in 1976, although astronomers did not know about the flyby at the time. The next known approach of an asteroid this large will be in 2028. NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called “Spaceguard,” discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

JPL manages the Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects is at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch . More information about asteroid radar research is at: http://echo.jpl.nasa.gov/ . More information about the Deep Space Network is at: http://deepspace.jpl.nasa.gov/dsn .

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51 Responses to Asteroid near miss – the movie

  1. Mr Lynn says:

    As has been pointed out here many times, NEOs are a real threat to Earth, and worth spending time, expertise, and money on detecting and working out interception strategies. But of course, unlike utterly fabulous fears of ‘climate change’, the enterprise could never (short of an imminent mega threat—cf. Max Erlich, The Big Eye) serve as an excuse for totalitarian ‘global governance’.

    /Mr Lynn

  2. davidmhoffer says:

    Now an asteroid strike is something that really could wreak havoc on the planet, and one doesn’t have to parse tons of data with monster super computers trying to find a signal in the data that is mostly overhwhelmed by noise to prove it.

    How much of the bill does the United Nations pony up for keeping watch on this ACTUAL threat to humanity?

    What? Nothing? The United States of America pays the whole shot themselves and stands on gaurd for the safety of the human race and the entire planet all on their own? Without even asking any other countries to help? You know the countries I’m talking about, the ones that take every opportunity to pee all over the U.S. of A?

    Well, I’m not an American, and while I think that the chances of an asteroid strike are remote, I think ignoring the possibility of one would be just plain stupid. Thanks America, for looking out for the rest of us, and may (deity of your choice) bless.

  3. G. Karst says:

    Well, we found the bowling ball. Now we need to locate the pins. GK

  4. Greg Cavanagh says:

    Took some searching through the links, but I finaly found the size of the thing. It is passing just inside the orbit of the moon.

    NASA scientists will be tracking asteroid 2005 YU55 with antennas of the agency’s Deep Space Network at Goldstone, Calif., as the space rock safely flies past Earth slightly closer than the moon’s orbit on Nov. 8. Scientists are treating the flyby of the 1,300-foot-wide (400-meter) asteroid as a science target of opportunity – allowing instruments on “spacecraft Earth” to scan it during the close pass.

  5. Crispin in Waterloo says:

    Detected late and very heavy, deflection might be impossible. If we can only steer these things a little bit, can I nominate some landing sites? I’ve got a little list.

  6. Jim Watson says:

    I crunched the numbers to put this near miss in more down-to-earth distances: if you were jogging along a circular track the diameter of St. Paul’s Cathedral (representing the earth orbiting around the sun) and someone took a shot at you, the bullet would miss you by about an inch and a half.

  7. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Going by numerous local and national TV news reports, the size of this asteroid is one Aircraft Carrier. As a sad indicator of current journalistic standards, quite appalling, they failed to provide the factor to convert this to Olympic-sized Swimming Pools.

  8. bushbunny says:

    The big threat is coming around 2028, the problem being, telescopes or what ever they use, can not pick up comets, asteroids or meteors heading towards earth or the moon, from the direction of the sun. They are blinded and notice of an impending impact only with a few days notice.

    And unlike carbon taxes, AGW, climate change hysteria, there is b…. nothing we can do. But
    it was suggested that rockets launch from space with nuclear heads might intercept one enough to change its direction. Too sci-fi for me. I’m trying to cope with paying my electricity bill.

  9. John-X says:

    DANG IT!

    Several thousand megatons would have been enough to slow down Global Warming for a while!

    What a great opportunity we missed to heal the planet.

  10. Hemroids are a greater threat but they strike the earth in a different way.

  11. davidmhoffer said:
    November 8, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Now an asteroid strike is something that really could wreak havoc on the planet, and one doesn’t have to parse tons of data with monster super computers trying to find a signal in the data that is mostly overwhelmed by noise to prove it.

    How much of the bill does the United Nations pony up for keeping watch on this ACTUAL threat to humanity?

    What? Nothing? The United States of America pays the whole shot themselves and stands on gaurd for the safety of the human race and the entire planet all on their own?…
    —————————————————-
    Well said Sir! :)

  12. DJ says:

    How long before the Union of Concerned Scientists (of which I am an esteamed member) begins to educate us in the perils of a warming climate resulting in more frequent and more severe asteroid impact potential?

  13. DocWat says:

    Any body going to have better pictures? Any information on alterations in asteroid orbit due to close pass by earth.

    Next time we need to put somebody on board.

  14. Mac the Knife says:

    davidmhoffer says:
    November 8, 2011 at 7:44 pm
    “Well, I’m not an American, and while I think that the chances of an asteroid strike are remote, I think ignoring the possibility of one would be just plain stupid. Thanks America, for looking out for the rest of us, and may (deity of your choice) bless.”

    David,
    A heartfelt ‘Thank You, Sir!’
    Sometimes, with all of the wrong headed things going down in the US of A and elsewhere, I lose perspective on the many things my beleaguered country does right.
    MtK

  15. dp says:

    I wonder how many thousands of tons of carbon that would be equivalent to and why people still use TNT as a comparison. Carbon is a far more chilling prospect. :)

  16. Mike Borgelt says:

    OK so how many African Elephants goes it mass? (favorite mass unit of the ABC in Australia)
    Time to dust off the plans for Project Orion (the original one, not the pissant recent NASA welfare program).

  17. Allen Lopez says:

    Asteroid 2005 YU55 will approach the earth when it pass the lunar orbit…

    >>>http://tinyurl.com/Asteroid-2005-YU55

  18. Paul Westhaver says:

    Another lifeless rock in space. ho hum. I prefer the amazing cornucopia of life here on earth, particular that in the, as of yet, inaccessible reaches of the ocean depths.

  19. RockyRoad says:

    Crispin in Waterloo says:
    November 8, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Detected late and very heavy, deflection might be impossible. If we can only steer these things a little bit, can I nominate some landing sites? I’ve got a little list.

    Instead, just expose Al Gore to it and it will fall harmlessly frozen out of the sky. (Since it isn’t made of CO2, I’m sure Hansen will let it land on his front yard.)

  20. DJ says:

    dp says:
    November 8, 2011 at 9:07 pm
    I wonder how many thousands of tons of carbon that would be equivalent to and why people still use TNT as a comparison.

    Global Warming Equivalents? I like it!! Instead of tons of TNT, ppm CO2?? Instead of tons of TNT, Thousands of Carbon Footprints? Instead of tons of TNT, we could pay tribute, and use Algores. (Algore: A mythical unit that doesn’t really do anything, but it costs a lot of money and destroys economies. Known to cause unprecedented snowing at conventions)

  21. Lew Skannen says:

    “no closer than 201,700 miles ”

    Oh well, better luck next time.

  22. Truthseeker says:

    Greg Cavanagh says:
    November 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm
    Took some searching through the links, but I finaly found the size of the thing. It is passing just inside the orbit of the moon.

    What happens if it actually hits the moon on a future pass? Is it big enough to affect the moon’s orbit? Just askin …

  23. bushbunny says:

    Truth seeker, without an atmosphere there could be one more big hole on the moons surface, but not enough to shift it’s orbit – that would be terrible for Earth. But an astronomer might have a more accurate answer to your query. It’s the ones you can’t see approaching that could be troublesome. The ones that come from the sun they can’t been spotted until they are quite close..

  24. wayne says:

    Truthseeker says:
    November 8, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    What happens if it actually hits the moon on a future pass? Is it big enough to affect the moon’s orbit? Just askin …

    First, you have to choose… a direct head-on slammer, a backside perk in the velocity, or a full broadside slap? ☺

  25. CB says:

    to ‘nearly miss’ something is to HIT it… am I the only sane person on the planet? or shall I blame human mindlessness and adherence to newspeak?

  26. How far do I have to look on the internet before I find predictions of doom, gloom, and disaster because an asteroid is passing somewhat close to the earth?

  27. D. J. Hawkins says:

    Jim Watson says:
    November 8, 2011 at 8:14 pm
    I crunched the numbers to put this near miss in more down-to-earth distances: if you were jogging along a circular track the diameter of St. Paul’s Cathedral (representing the earth orbiting around the sun) and someone took a shot at you, the bullet would miss you by about an inch and a half.

    Thanks, I didn’t need to sleep tonight anyway :-P

  28. Dave in Delaware says:

    CB says: to ‘nearly miss’ something is to HIT it.
    true enough, but that is not what was said –

    a Near Miss … is indeed a miss, and understood to have only missed by a small amount.

    as opposed to Nearly Miss … which would be a hit, but close to missing.

  29. Julian Flood says:

    I actually wrote a short about this sort of thing — only in my imagined world the world had had the foresight to build a shield. Couldn’t sell it though, but Analog did take one about climate change. Humph!

    quote
    “Hoplite to Guardian, I’ve got a confidence level charlie on that estimate. Why’s that?”
    The controller reached lazily for her switch.
    “It’s from Two only. Birdseye Three’s off for maintenance, One’s due up in five days. You’ll get confidence alfa in ten minutes when we’ve tracked it for a bit longer.”
    Confidence bravo was fifty thou out. Confidence alfa…
    “Well now. Just look at that,” said Scott’s voice. “It’s a bullseye.” The red dot was dead centre on the Earth.
    The chief controller slapped her hand on a palm-sized button beside her chair. Sirens sounded and a robot voice blared.
    “Alert, alert. Standby to launch.” Airlocks slammed shut all over the spinning wheel.
    “Launching, launching. Non-essential personnel take cover. Non-essential…”
    ROUGH MAGIC lurched as the Hoplite blasted free.
    “Hoplite to Guardian, take cover. Hoplite slewing now. Firing in thirty seconds. Take cover.” The speakers took up the refrain. A controller grabbed Carradine. They fell together down some steps into a dingy hole below the seats. The woman’s face was wet with sweat.
    “If she blows up we’ll get zapped. Three metres of lead here.” They held their breath.
    Much later Carradine saw the holo of the launch, shot from Longstop. The Hoplite broke free of the wheel in an explosion of sparks and debris. She swung smoothly into position, then ignited her main engine. Bombs fired one after another, three a second, a searing glare that cut out all other vision, exploding just behind the huge buffer plate, enormous shock absorbers bouncing under the titanic strain of each impact. Hoplite stood on a pillar of flame and streaked away. Big as a supertanker, fifty years old, the hittile was up and running.
    unquote

    It didn’t have brave miners in sweaty vests, though, so not a sniff from Hollywood…

    People fifty years from now will look at our obsession with CC and think we’ve all gone mad — I refer everyone to today’s telegraph where our Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has restated his position. Apparantly he’s not for turning.

    JF

  30. Brian H says:

    DJ;
    so, how often does the UCS steam you? Does it help?

  31. John Marshall says:

    I agree with davidmhoffer. (second post)

    Mind you if America kept the big one secret what good would it do?

  32. H.R. says:

    DJ says:
    November 8, 2011 at 10:18 pm
    dp says:
    November 8, 2011 at 9:07 pm
    I wonder how many thousands of tons of carbon that would be equivalent to and why people still use TNT as a comparison.

    Global Warming Equivalents? I like it!! Instead of tons of TNT, ppm CO2?? Instead of tons of TNT, Thousands of Carbon Footprints? Instead of tons of TNT, we could pay tribute, and use Algores. (Algore: A mythical unit that doesn’t really do anything, but it costs a lot of money and destroys economies. Known to cause unprecedented snowing at conventions)
    =================================================
    1 Algore = (ohms x inches of water column x African Elephants)/(Yuan x km x Olympic swimming pools)**2

    Rule of thumb: Multiply 1 Algore by gallons of jet fuel/hour to get inches of snow on a driveway in Seville, Spain.

  33. Peterxema says:

    I would like to know what are the chances of such an asteroid hitting the Moon rather than Earth, and what might be the consequences, depending on whether the strike is a glancing blow or a direst hit. Could the Moon’s orbit and the lunar cycle be affected, for example? Would not even a small change to its cycle have major consequences – for tidal cycles, biological rhythms ? Would chunks of Moon rock that may be broken off then hit Earth or enter new orbits as ‘mini-moons?

  34. Blade says:

    Post Mortem of the event.

    From Sky and Telescope

    * Visual Animation of the asteroid crossing the moon’s orbit: [GIF]

    * Actual composite photo of the asteroid crossing the sky through a 16″ telescope: [JPEG]

    From Space.com“The asteroid 2005 YU55 came within 201,700 miles (324,600 kilometers) of Earth at 6:28 p.m. EST (2328 GMT) Tuesday evening before speeding off into deep space once again at about 29,000 mph (46,700 kph). The space rock is about 1,300 feet (400 meters) wide. An asteroid this large hasn’t come so near to Earth.” [NB: that's a quarter mile wide, Empire State Building sized].

    From Keck Observatory … Well supposedly their facebook page has a live stream, but the video they have there just shows them just standing around our taxpayer funded equipment. I don’t see what they are accomplishing at all. Well done boys.

    As usual, almost nothing of interest from NASA websites. I’m so glad this flyby has NASA’s full attention /SARC. We wouldn’t want to interrupt their regularly scheduled AGW alarmism or anything. Nothing to see here, move along.

  35. UK Sceptic says:

    Well at least we can stand down Bruce Willis now…

  36. TimC says:

    Jim Watson says “I crunched the numbers to put this near miss in more down-to-earth distances: if you were jogging along a circular track the diameter of St. Paul’s Cathedral (representing the earth orbiting around the sun) and someone took a shot at you, the bullet would miss you by about an inch and a half.”

    How do you get that result Jim? The article reports that, at closest approach, asteroid 2005 YU55 “was no closer than 201,700 miles (324,600 kilometers), as measured from the center of Earth”.

    If you take the radius of the earth as say 4,000 miles (just to keep it simple) the asteroid passed 50 radius length’s away. If you, when jogging, represent the earth, and you are fit and healthy with no more than a 30 inch waist (so your belly is 4.77 inch radius) the bullet would miss you by 4.77 x 50 inches = 20 feet, surely?

    I think something must be wrong with your scaling. The length of St Paul’s is 530 feet, approx; taking half of that as equivalent to the earth/sun radius of 93m miles gives a mapping scale of 29,250 miles/inch. But the earth at 8,000 miles would then only be 0.3 inch diameter – so a miss of an inch and a half would be nothing to be really concerned over.

  37. John Law says:

    kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    November 8, 2011 at 8:20 pm
    Going by numerous local and national TV news reports, the size of this asteroid is one Aircraft Carrier. As a sad indicator of current journalistic standards, quite appalling, they failed to provide the factor to convert this to Olympic-sized Swimming Pools.

    Kadaka:

    I thought the recognised comparator for asteroids was “London Buses”, or is that nuclear waste volumes?

  38. Dave Springer says:

    Jim Watson says:
    November 8, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    “I crunched the numbers to put this near miss in more down-to-earth distances: if you were jogging along a circular track the diameter of St. Paul’s Cathedral (representing the earth orbiting around the sun) and someone took a shot at you, the bullet would miss you by about an inch and a half.”

    Yes but I ran some additional numbers for added perspective. The “bullet” in your scenario would barely be visible to the naked eye (about 50 micrometers). The size of a dust mote. Same diameter as a human hair.

  39. rbateman says:

    The trajectory of asteroid 2005 YU55 is well understood. At the point of closest approach today at 3:28 p.m. PST (6:28 p.m. EST/2328 UTC), it was no closer than 201,700 miles (324,600 kilometers), as measured from the center of Earth. The gravitational influence of the asteroid will have no detectable effect on anything here on Earth, including our planet’s tides or tectonic plates. Although 2005 YU55 is in an orbit that regularly brings it to the vicinity of Earth (and Venus and Mars), the 2011 encounter with Earth is the closest this space rock has come for at least the last 200 years.

    And therein lies a problem with the conflicting depictions coming out of NASA/JPL.
    Nothing happened, but which depiction of trajectory was correct?
    -The Don Yeoman’s (NASA/JPL employee) animated Gif which shows YU55 crossing Earth orbit at 90 degrees (the one all the news reported on) or
    -The JPL simulation, which shows YU55 running just inside of Venus orbit out to just inside Mars oribit, and which crosses Earth orbit at approx. 30 degrees. And which the orbital elements taken from JPL, MPC Harvard and IAU all give the same result when entered into The Sky planetarium program.

    In plain English (minus the astronomical jargon) did YU55 cross inbetween Earth and the Moon (darting behind the Earth but in front of the Moon, or did YU55 cross Earth orbit after the Earth/Moon had exited the ‘intersection’?

    I suppose the 90% of people don’t know the difference between 100% certainty of a near miss and outreach, but I do. Really bothers me.

  40. First, the dinosaurs get it, what’s next? Will it be a big space rock? Or, will it be a tiny little virus? Oh, I forgot, it will be ….. wait for it…. ….. CLIMATE CHANGE….. eeeek! …. damn…..where did I put that bucket of sand…

  41. J.H. says:

    It seems to have a few well defined craters on it…. One quite big…. How does a 400 meter diameter asteroid….. survive breakup from such impacts?… It would seem that it is too round to be a fragment.

    Very curious…… The big one would appear to be about fifty meters in diameter? It also is a strange crater for an impact… it’s shallow and very flat and even. I don’t know. I just expected a more jagged and broken appearance to any impact feature…. and deeper.

    I wonder what sort of rock it’s composed of and whether it is a monolith or an amalgam from accretion processes?… If the former, it’d likely be very hard, the latter, it’d be quite soft or dusty…..? ah well…. It’s gone now….;-)

  42. mojo says:

    Thing was way the hell and gone up above the ecliptic. Space is 3 dimensional, folks.

  43. 200mphcobra says:

    Dare I say it, CO2 is causing increasing near earth asteroid flybys.

  44. Scarface says:

    bushbunny says: (November 8, 2011 at 8:23 pm)
    “The big threat is coming around 2028, the problem being, telescopes or what ever they use, can not pick up comets, asteroids or meteors heading towards earth or the moon, from the direction of the sun. They are blinded and notice of an impending impact only with a few days notice.”

    I’m sorry, but isn’t it true that earth cycles the sun in a year? So, that would give enough opportunities in the days, weeks and months, before something really comes from the direction of the sun, to spot it, I would think?

  45. Brad T says:

    I was able to get a series of short video segments using a PC164C low light video camera and y 10″ telescope. Here’s a link to one of my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDN7f0b3RCI
    Asteroid moving from right side of field to the left and over the bright star.

  46. 1DandyTroll says:

    I was like, going eek, screaming in utter doomsday horror, through the whole pass’n time. My wife was like shocked beyond disbelief, going, I wish I could do that, I wish I could do that.

    Of course, I might have had a nightmare, but then again that’s the green version of reality, i’n’t? :p

  47. u.k.(us) says:

    “The last time a space rock as big came as close to Earth was in 1976, although astronomers did not know about the flyby at the time. The next known approach of an asteroid this large will be in 2028. NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes.”
    ===========
    Did anyone get a good picture of it ?
    I mean assuming we could somehow deflect it, we should have been able to point a telescope to capture an image of it, during some point of our precise tracking of it path ?
    Or are we kidding ourselves ?

  48. Steve Oregon says:

    Isn’t it worth a lot of money?
    Why couldn’t it have been captured and brought to earth. Maybe in pieces?
    Yeah that’s the ticket.
    I know the perfect use. Add it to the Maldeves to elevate an island.
    Or drop it on the Antarctic ice shelf and break the stupid thing off once and for all.

  49. Blade says:

    Brad T [November 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm] says:

    “I was able to get a series of short video segments using a PC164C low light video camera and y 10? telescope. Here’s a link to one of my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDN7f0b3RCI. Asteroid moving from right side of field to the left and over the bright star.”

    Good work.

  50. Venril says:

    Huh, I guess they’ll wait til they reach the other side of the sun before they begin braking maneuvers, after their survey pass.

    So, will it be the Fithp or the Kzin? Or maybe just some nice traders here to sell us ‘glass beads’.

  51. Frumious Bandersnatch says:

    I would suggest that such a large object wouldn’t impact all in one unit due to the gravitational stresses that would break it up (Roche’s limit) before it even hit earth. The smaller pieces could conceivably cause considerable damage, but most of these would either be thrown away from earth (atmospheric bounce, centripital forces, etc.) or burned up upon entry into the earth’s atmosphere. Of those actually striking, we probably only have to really worry about those that hit land (and there is about a 71% chance against that). It would have to be a really big object to cause any significant damage if it hit the water. We’ve been dropping large man-made objects into the oceans for decades without any damage, so I don’t see this as a problem unless a very large chunk of asteroid was able to to strike the ocean (I consider this to be highly unlikely due to Roche’s limit, as stated above). However, asteroids striking land may be a different proposition.

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