Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Since the dawn of the space age, humanity has sent 16 robotic emissaries to fly by some of the solar system's most intriguing and nomadic occupants comets and asteroids. The data and imagery collected on these deep-space missions of exploration have helped redefine our understanding of how Earth and our part of the galaxy came to be. But this fall, Mother Nature is giving scientists around the world a close-up view of one of her good-sized space rocks  no rocket required.

"On November 8, asteroid 2005 YU55 will fly past Earth and at its closest approach point will be about 325,000 kilometers [201,700 miles] away," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "This asteroid is about 400 meters [1,300 feet] wide – the largest space rock we have identified that will come this close until 2028."

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