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Giant asteroid to hurtle closer to Earth than moon


A mosaic image of asteroid Eros at it's north pole, taken by the robotic NEAR Shoemaker space probe on February 14, 2000 immediately after the spacecraft's insertion into orbit.



A huge asteroid will pass closer to Earth than the moon on Tuesday, which will give scientists a chance to study it without having to spend time and money by launching a probe, Reuters reported.

Asteroid 2005 YU 55 will sail about 201,000 miles from the planet at 6:28 p.m. EST on Tuesday. Thousands of amateur and professional astronomers are expected to track YU 55's orbit.

"It's the first time since 1976 that an object of this size has passed this closely to the Earth. It gives us a great — and rare — chance to study a near-Earth object like this," said Scott Fisher, an astronomer and program director with the National Science Foundation on Friday, Reuters reported.

The asteroid is about 1,312 feet in diameter. Its orbit and position are well known, added Don Yeomans, a senior research scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. However, it will be moving too fast for viewing by the Hubble Space Telescope.

"The best time to observe it would be in the early evening on November 8 from the East Coast of the United States," Yeomans said. "It is going to be very faint, even at its closest approach. You will need a decent-sized telescope to be able to actually see the object as it flies by." 

There is no chance that the asteroid will collide with either the Earth or moon," Yeomans said.

"We do not think that it will ever impact the Earth or moon (but) we only have its orbit calculated for the next 100 years," he said.

NASA is working on a human mission to another asteroid in the mid-2020s.

Japan also plans to launch an asteroid sample return mission in 2018.