While astronomers are busy falling over one another to observe a small rock as it flies by Earth, conspiracy theorists are doing the same prophesying the End of the World. An asteroid, 400-meters across, will pass by Earth on the 8th of November, coming as close as asteroids get. However, it will still clear the Earth by a gaping 320,000 kilometers or 200,000 miles, far enough to be considered absolutely safe for us. It’s called 2005 YU55 and you’ll need a telescope even a moderately powerful one will do to observe it.
The rock will be a magnitude 11 object, which means it is very faint. On the magnitude scale of brightness, the brighter the object is, the lesser is its magnitude. For example, the Sun has a magnitude of -26 (minus 26), while the faintest object visible with the naked eye is about 6. This means that you’ll need a telescope to observe it. The minimum size of the aperture recommended is about 12.5 cm; anything bigger will be great.
2005 YU55 has been called a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid’, but there is no cause to panic since this is a standard classification used for asteroids which cross the Earth’s orbit. However, as we said earlier, there is no cause for worry. The rock will miss Earth by a comfortably long distance and is also small enough to not exert any substantial amount of gravitational attraction.
The asteroid has been observed before and is known to contain interesting features, many just a few kilometers across. NASA’s Deep Space Network of radio telescopes will have a watchful eye out for the floating rock, as well as the Arecibo telescope, situated in Puerto Rico. Of course, other than these high-profile telescopes, there will be a lot of amateur skywatchers out with their gear. The moon will create problems yet again, being too bright against the relatively fainter asteroid.
Our advice: if you have the gear, go and have a great time. Do click images! Forget about doomsday predictions, they are just hot air.