Asteroid Heading Near Earth Nov. 8

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

An asteroid will be visible from Earth on Nov. 8, and astronomers are jumping at the chance to observe it. 

That night, the asteroid known as 2005 YU55 will pass the Earth from 200,000 miles, a seemingly long way that's actually close in astronomical distances, according to a report from CBS. 

At about 400 meters wide, 2005 YU55 is the largest known asteriod to pass by Earth in 17 years, but it's not being considered a threat - at least not yet. The asteroid's orbit intersects the Earth's, so it's officially a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid, but scientists say it won't be dangerous for at least a century, if not more.

NASA scientists are putting the final touches on their preparations to observe the asteroid from the agency's Deep Space Network at Goldstone, Calif. According to a release from NASA, scientists there are excited about the opportunity. They will be using both ground-based and space-based telescopes to detect, track and measure the rock as it passes. Researchers there will also use antennas to bounce radio waves off the asteroid, and then collect and analyze that data.

They're hoping those results produce images that will lead to a better understanding of the asteroid's surface features, dimensions and other physical characteristics.

The last time an asteroid came so close to Earth, in 1976, astronomers did not know about the event ahead of time. 

People outside of NASA's center could see the asteroid as well, but since the surface is so dim - only about one one hundredth as bright as the faintest star you can see unaided - a decent telescope will be needed to view 2005 YU55.

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