Asteroid 2005 YU55 Would "Cause A Significant Crater" If It Hit The Moon, NASA Director Says

An asteroid that will pass near Earth offers a rare scientific opportunity.

Though asteroid 2005 YU55, a rock four football fields long and set to pass by Earth November 8, isn't going to hit the moon, researchers say it would cause a major crater if it did.

"It would be a significant event on the moon, certainly," Yeomans told Life's Little Mysteries. "It wouldn't move the moon around at all, but it would cause a significant impact crater … at least 4 kilometers [2.5 miles] wide. That's significant, but still a pretty small crater in terms of the hierarchy of lunar craters."

If the 400-meter-wide asteroid were to impact the moon, it would kick up enough dust — and that dust would moving at a high enough speed — for a small quantity to escape the moon's gravity and coast all the way to Earth, 240,000 miles away, Yeomans said, as reported by Space.com. While much of the blast debris would burn up in our atmosphere, some fragments might make it to the ground.

"We know of lunar meteorites that have made it," he says of past collisions, according to Space.com.

But thankfully, such an event won't happen on Tuesday. Yeomans says that while the space rock whizzes past the planet at 30,000 miles per hour, the moon will be about a fourth of its way to the opposite side of Earth, according to Space.com. The asteroid and the moon miss each other by more than 150,000 miles.

"I just want to emphasize that the fact we have so much optical and radar data on [2005 YU55] means that we know there's no chance it can get dangerously close to the Earth or moon," he says, as reported by Space.com.

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