Huge asteroid to fly by Earth in November

"YU55 poses no threat of an Earth collision over, at the very least, the next 100 years," says Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL.

Let our great grandkids worry about it.

Huge asteroid to fly by Earth in November


  1. Just because it doesn’t pose a threat doesn’t mean we shouldn’t blow it up.

    1. Blow it up so the fragments WILL hit the earth the next passes? At no predictable course till we see them pass the 2nd time around? Briljant….

  2. Asteroid hitting Earth = Teh Bad

    That much is obvious. But, what would happen if a big asteroid hit the Moon? I have no idea, but assume(!?) it would = teh not so bad?

    Is Maggie still accepting naïve questions?

  3. Good thing congress wants to cut planetary defense. That way we won’t know what hit us.

  4. “Aiiiieeee!!! We’re all gonna DIE we’re all gonna die the End is Ni. . .wait, come again?”

    “Woo-Hoo! We’re all gonna LIVE! Three cheers for a merciful God and observant Scientists!”

    I still gotta wonder: 400 meters. That’s pretty big. And fast. (how fast I wonder…) So, what would that do to, say, my house? Texas? The Northern Hemisphere?

    1. What a cool tool, roboton! That explained things I didn’t even know I should wonder about!

      1. Agreed. Now my fears of an asteroid hitting Earth have actual statistics connected to it.

  5. I hope Maggie is still accepting naive questions! From the article: “At first, 2005 YU55 will be too close to the sun and too faint for optical observers. But late in the day (Universal Time) on Nov. 8, and early on Nov. 9, the asteroid could reach about 11th magnitude for several hours before it fades as its distance rapidly increases.” Does this mean we’ll be able to see it with the naked eye? Or are they referencing telescopes when they say “optical observers”?

    Also, @gwailo_joe, they said it would create a crater of 5-6 km, although that leaves me wondering if there would be any impact to the area outside of the crater.

    1. 11th magnitude is too dim to be seen with the naked eye. About the minimum magnitude that you can see without a telescope is 6th magnitude – it’s a decreasing scale with -1 or 0 magnitude corresponding to the brightest stars.

      1. Thank you for the info, George! Boingboing is such a good community for finding out things you didn’t know.

    2. You won’t be able to see it naked eye. It may be visible with a decent pair of 10×50 binoculars if you’re fully dark adapted and have very dark skies.

      November 8th is two days before full moon, so you won’t have dark skies. (It’s also election day in the US.) It should be readily visible in a small telescope, say 6″ or larger. I’ll be looking for it in my 8″ dob if there’s clear skies that night.

  6. >Let our great grandkids worry about it.

    Spoken like a true baby boomer. I kid, I kid.

    1. Just be sure to have your long-form birth certificate and hope they don’t have blasters.

  7. Just for fun, and for anyone who’s curious about more precise numbers for the impact effects calculator, you can calculate the range of velocities from the orbital data found here:

    I get a minimum of 17.61 km/s, maximum of 44.08 km/s. (Exact number depends on where it is in its orbit around the sun… ).

    It’s a C type asteroid, so density is around 2000 kg/m^3.

  8. Right on, robotron!

    That was fun (I dropped it on Los Angeles)

    Actually kind of disappointed: ‘Global damages not significant’?

    What’s up with that?

    a 13 mile wide crater only half a mile deep?! Sure, Burbank is screwed. . .but Mission Viejo, Oxnard? A few broken Elvis plates, some barking dogs. . .big deal.

    Then I placed a 5000 meter asteroid on New York City: took out about a quarter of North America. Kinda felt bad about that: sorry guys! Got a little carried away there. . .

    Still: no changes in Earth orbit or anything! I’m going back and showing this planet who’s boss: it’s a little embarrassing how much I like this.

  9. a 13 mile wide crater only half a mile deep?! Sure, Burbank is screwed. . .but Mission Viejo, Oxnard?

    The 60-odd cubic miles of ejecta isn’t just going to place itself in a handy dustbin.

  10. I threw a thousand freaking mile diameter chunk of iron right at the center of the planet.

    Direct hit. Results?

    ‘The Earth is not strongly disturbed by the impact and loses negligible mass.
    1.44 percent of the Earth is melted
    The impact does not make a noticeable change in the Earth’s rotation period or the tilt of its axis.
    The impact does not shift the Earth’s orbit noticeably.’

    I know when I’m licked. Earth 1 gwailo_joe 0

      1. Agreed. I’m not cut out for the whole omnipotent being gig.

        Sure, at first it would be great. All STDs would be cured and everyone could find true love and get paid vacations. Or not work at all: sit at home and drink margaritas, go ahead, I’m benevolent!

        but. . .then the fields of eggplants and brussel sprouts would begin to wither and die (because I think they’re gross); half the dogs would disappear (at least the ones that bark at me), the StupidMeanie plague I would create, killing off the willfully ignorant and not particularly nice people would leave innumerable corpses in the streets. . .

        No. . .it’s not for me. I’ll leave the control of physical reality to the professionals.

        Though I will 2nd Jake0748: yeah, comet! Faster! Way faster, an inexorable space snowball…
        of Death! Take that, evildoers! oh. doing it again. . .sorry.

  11. Just so you know, this guy is waaaaay smaller than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs.

    The Chixculub asteroid (or comet) was 10km in diameter. This one’s only 400m.

  12. Correction to my above post: obviously, when it comes close to the earth it will be at ~1 AU from the sun, so I get a velocity of 29.12 km/s. Use this value for maximum realism in your sadistic little asteroid flinging games, folks.

    People with even more time to waste on their hands than I do can use the NASA/JPL Horizons ( software to calculate a more exact value…

  13. Just crash the moon into the earth at min. velocity.

    The application gives me a richter scale reading of 14.6 (lol) at 5000km away and a shockwave of 176 dB. That position, 5000km away? It ends up in the final crater.

    Clearly it doesn’t work quite right for the extremes. OR DOES IT?!?!

    1. Clearly it doesn’t work quite right for the extremes. OR DOES IT?!?!

      Nope, that’s about right. Our moon is big; ridiculously outsized by the standards of moons in general. If you crash it into the Earth, there wouldn’t be much left of either.

  14. I’ve seen references to a relative velocity of 85,000 km/h (23.6 km/s), which gives a value for 2005 YU55’s kinetic energy of around 1.8 x 10^19 joules (18 exajoules or 18 EJ). This is, apparently, equal to roughly 4,000 megatons of TNT. For additional reference, the March 9.0 earthquake in Japan released 1.41 EJ, and the annual energy usage of the US is roughly 13 EJ.

    So … good thing it’s going to miss us …

  15. Jesus. Do you people read the news at all? Clearly we’d all be better if this thing just plowed into Wyoming and set off a super-volcano.

  16. If it puts on its retro thrusters in August and settles into an insertion trajectory, let me know.

  17. Doing a little arithmetic here, I find that to alter the course of YU55 enough to strike earth you need a force of just 8 Newtons — less than two pounds force. You can do that with your index finger, given a place to stand on.

    8 Newtons just isn’t that much. A warm gas jet or eruption on the rock can easily do that. Fortunately, odds are, uh, astronomical that if a jet happens that it will happen in the right direction with the right impulse.

  18. So in a hundred years? I mean for people hoping for grandchildren to survive? Gets me how “its ok because we will be dead anyway” mentality comes into play. Like “don’t worry about pollution we won’t have to clean it up to survive” If it’s going to be dangerous shouldn’t we deal with it while there is the opportunity of it’s being nearby?

  19. Also is there any room in those nice big shelters newly built in India where the tourist industry is attracting people like Gates and other staggeringly wealthy people at the moment?

  20. Of course I read this while I’m in the middle of reading Lucifer’s Hammer… Everyone said the Hammer was Millions to one against hitting, then Thousands, then Hundreds… Then it hit!

  21. just think, if that thing did take our moon away that quickly, half of the WORLD would see a tsunami!!!

    o my

  22. It is outside of the effects of the moon’s gravity? If not, could it be perturbed by the moon’s influence?

    I’ve wondered about a spacecraft that could harpoon such a body and then be pulled behind it like a water-skiier, perhaps even reeling itself in and attaching to the asteroid, sending back data all along.

    If it seemed like the asteroid was coming back on a collision course, the attached spacecraft could be used to divert it or blow it up. Or, it could be used to divert the asteroid *into* the earth, unless you give me one MIIIllion wait… one BIIIllion… wait.. One HUNDred BIIIllion dollars…

  23. what if their speed calculations are off and the thing gets captured by earths gravity?

  24. A question:

    By the moon’s movement, it should be 2 hours it’s within it’s orbit. Why isn’t the earth moving? Why is the asteroid making a perfect cut through? The earth is relatively moving quite a bit faster than the moon, around the sun and both earth and the moon should also alter the orbit of the asteroid…?

    1. The frame of reference for that animated image is the Earth.
      Take a closer look at the diagonal line (actually an arc) that goes from lower right to upper left. That’s the Earth’s path around the sun. It appears to be moving because the Earth is fixed.

  25. “Let our great grandkids worry about it.”

    — If you think this is true you really really need to do a lot more research in the medical sciences…most of us are going to be here in a hundred years when this comes around again…

  26. Haven’t you guys heard about the rapture on May 21, followed by six months of tribulations, conveniently setting us up for a world destroying impact in Nov?

    Obviously it’s gravitational effect or impact will pull the moon out of orbit, crashing the moon into earth.

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