Scientists from NASA are working with 70 m Deep Space Network antennas in California, and they have released a second, longer, and more refined, movie clip of behemoth asteroid 2005 YU55.
The 4m/pixel resolution images were generated from data collected at Goldstone on Nov. 7. Each of the 28 frames required 20 minutes of data collection by the Goldstone radar.
According to NASA, 2005 YU55 takes a rotation in the movie that appears more rapid than the actual asteroid rotation speed. One rotation for the asteroid takes approximately 18 hours to complete.
The NASA animation shows that YU55 is about 400 meters across, or 1,300 feet, with some of its dips the size of football fields.
On Nov. 8, thousands of professional and amateur astronomers tracked the asteroid with telescopes. Robert McMillan of the NASA Spacewatch project discovered the asteroid in 2005. It is the closest known approach by an asteroid since 2010 XC15 neared within 0.5 lunar distances in 1976.
"It was pretty easy to find," said Ronald Dantowitz, director of the student-run Clay Center Observatory in Massachusetts, to Reuters. "It's moving differently than the stars are moving. It looks like a giant rock floating through space."
Like us on Facebook
NASA experts believe YU 55 has been visiting Earth for many years, elbowed by Jupiter’s gravity out of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
According to Don Yeomans with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., computer simulators show the asteroid will not be a threat for the next 100 years, but scientists have not run tests beyond 100 years.
"It costs millions of dollars to send a spacecraft for a close encounter with an asteroid," Dantowitz said. "Instead, this one is coming to us. It's literally streaming through our backyard."
YU 55 is believed by scientists to be one of the more common, carbon-rich asteroids containing water, metals, and other materials that could be useful for space explorers.
However, NASA assures the public there is no danger.
“The trajectory of asteroid 2005 YU55 is well understood. At the point of closest approach, it will be no closer than 201,700 miles (324,600 kilometers) or 0.85 the distance from the moon to Earth,” said an official statement on NASA’s website. “The gravitational influence of the asteroid will have no detectable effect on anything here on Earth, including our planet's tides or tectonic plates.”
Scientists expect the next approach of a space rock with the same magnitude in 2028.