Asteroid Alert! Space Rock to Zip by Earth Tonight
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Asteroid Alert! Space Rock to Zip by Earth Tonight


It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s an asteroid! For the first time in 35 years, scientists and space enthusiasts will have an opportunity to catch a glimpse of an asteroid larger than an aircraft carrier that will whiz between the Earth and the Moon Tuesday evening. Don’t worry. Scientists say this isn’t Armageddon because it won’t hit Earth.  Only once every few million years does an object large enough to threaten Earth’s civilization comes along. Smaller flying objects venture near but nothing this large has come as close since 1976.

NASA says the space rock, dubbed “2005 YU55”, will make its closest to earth on Tuesday at 6:28 p.m. EST. Although 2005 YU55 is in an orbit that regularly brings it to the vicinity of Earth, the encounter is the closest this space rock has come for at least the last 200 years, according to NASA. So while anxious astronomers prepare to obtain radar images of the space rock, here’s a look at some other numbers behind asteroid 2005 YU55:

$4 million
Annual funding for several major “near-earth object” (NEO) detection programs.

A report last year from the National Research Council found that this level of funding is nowhere near enough to meet a 2020 deadline set by Congress to find 90 percent of near-Earth objects greater than 140-meters in diameter, which would cause regional damage. 

The width in feet of the asteroid, which is equal to one-quarter mile.

The number of hours of a full rotation of the asteroid as it spins slowly. 

Number of miles the asteroid will be from Earth at the point of closest approach.

Number of miles between the Earth and the Moon.

NASA last “imaged” the asteroid on April 19, 2010 when the space rock was about 1.5 million miles away from Earth.

The moon will be just under 1,500 miles from the asteroid at the closet time of approach.

The year “2005 YU55” was discovered by NASA.

If the asteroid were to hit Earth, scientists say it would blast a crater four miles across and 1,700 feet deep. 

Number of near-Earth objects catalogued by NASA to date.

The year an Asteroid named Apophis, estimated to be 885 feet across, will fly extremely close to earth on April 13.

Approximately every 2,000 years, a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage.

The largest known potentially hazardous asteroid is Toutatis whose diameter exceeds 3.35 miles.

Everyday Earth is bombarded with 100 tons of dust and sand-sized particles.

Amateur astronomers will need a six-inch or larger telescope and need to know exactly where to spot it.

During the flyby, scientists will use a massive 240-foot Deep Space Network antenna to study the asteroid.