A Massive Asteroid Will Make Its Closest Approach to Earth on Feb. 15 in Four Centuries

A big near-earth asteroid 2005 YY128 will come within 2.8 million miles (4.5 million km) of our home planet while conducting its closest approach to Earth in more than 400 years. EarthSky.org revealed that this massive asteroid will be making its close flyby at 7:46 p.m. EST on Feb. 15 (0046 GMT on Feb.16).

But is this distance too close to Earth? Astronomers reveal that the asteroid will fly past Earth at about 12 times the distance between Earth to the moon. Hence, we have nothing to fear as the asteroid will never collide with our home planet during today’s flyby. But how was this asteroid discovered? How will it conduct its flyby tonight? Can you watch it online or offline? Continue reading to learn more.

How Asteroid 2005YY128 was discovered

Asteroid 2005YY128 was discovered in 2005 by astronomers while conducting an observation at the Kitt Peak Observatory in southern Arizona. After the discovery, scientists began to study its orbit with a high degree of precision. This implies that astronomers have been analyzing the orbit of asteroid 2005YY128 for the past 17 years. Despite the several scientific observations conducted on this space rock, researchers are still struggling to conclude the exact size of 2005 YY128.

But based on some already existing data, astronomers at EarthSky agreed that the asteroid could possess a diameter ranging between 1,903 feet (580 meters) and 4,265 feet (1.3 km). Hence, this assumption enables scientists to classify asteroid 2005 YY128 as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA). Astronomers agreed that for an asteroid to be classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA), it must be at least 460 feet (140 m) wide and its orbit must come within 0.05 astronomical units (AU) of Earth.

Keep in mind that One AU is known as the average distance between the Earth and the Sun, which is about 93 million miles (150 million km). Hence, space objects that come within 0.05 AU should possess about 4.6 million miles (7.4 million Km) away from our home planet.

What Will Happen If Asteroid 2005 YY128 Collide with Earth?

An asteroid classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid will surely cause great harm if it eventually collides with our home planet. Even though asteroid 2005 YY128 does not stand the chance of slamming into Earth in this close flyby, astronomers are still suggesting that it will cause serious damage if it mistakenly happens.

“The largest near-Earth asteroids (> 1 km diameter) have the potential to cause geologic and climate effects on a global scale, disrupting human civilization and perhaps even resulting in the extinction of the species,” the Sweden-based nonprofit Global Challenges Foundation wrote of the asteroid-impact threat. “Smaller NEOs [near-Earth objects] in the 140-meter to 1-km size range could cause regional up to continental devastation, potentially killing hundreds of millions.”

How to Watch the Asteroid 2005 YY128 Make its Closest Approach To Earth Today

Astronomers at EarthSky reveal that Asteroid 2005 YY128 will be passing the Earth from the Southern Hemisphere. Hence, skywatchers in this region stand a great chance of seeing the space rock using their telescopes. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you should be able to complete your equipment setup before Asteroid 2005 YY128 will fly past Earth.

The space rock will be flying past earth at a speed of 55,140 miles per hour (88,740 km/h or 24.65 km/sec), relative to Earth, according to EarthSky. Hence, amateur astronomers can easily spot the asteroid because of its speed in front of the stars. However, the great distance between Earth and the space rock will make it appear to be moving as a slow object from a distance.

Conclusion

Asteroid 2005 YY128 will be conducting its closest flyby on the same date the Chelyabinsk airburst occurred 10 years ago. But unlike the Chelyabinsk airburst, asteroid 2005 YY128 will not slam into Earth because of distance. What do you think about this asteroid making its closest approach to Earth in more than 400 years?

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