Giant Asteroid to pass close to Earth and Moon
NASA has announced that a giant asteroid, estimated to be 400 meters in size, is expected to pass close to the Earth on November 8, 2011 (within 0.85 lunar distances from the Earth). The asteroid should be visible to observers in the northern and southern hemispheres.
Although the 2005 YU55 asteroid is classified as a potentially hazardous object, we are told that it is not likely to collide with the Earth within the next 100 years (if at all).
Apparently, this is the largest object experts have known about in advance, to pass this close to the Earth. The next asteroid of this size to come close will not be seen until the year 2028, but the approach will be even closer than YU55.
However, it is worth stressing that only Near-Earth asteroids that “we know about” can be predicted, and there are still a few that appear with very little warning (as happened quite recently).
Thousands of asteroids are tracked, and whilst the experts have a fairly accurate idea of the course they are taking, there are of course unpredicted events that can happen to alter their direction.
Whilst there may be no danger from the YU55 asteroid this time, an asteroid of this size hitting the Earth would produce a global catastrophe. It was an asteroid approximately one tenth the size of YU55 that affected an area of 2,000 square kilometers in Siberia (1908), when it exploded above the ground.
It is believed that a huge 10 kilometer asteroid was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago, but there have been a number of large impacts since then. Argentina saw a large impact 3.3 million years ago, and this too caused the extinction of many species.
50,000 years ago a meteorite, similar in size to the one that exploded over Siberia, caused the Barringer crater in Arizona. About 10.000 people died in 1490 when an asteroid exploded overhead in China.
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Since then we have had quite a few near-Earth asteroids, and it is only a matter of time before a large one will make contact with our planet. The size and location of the impact will determine the number of casualties, which could cause global cooling, or perhaps a massive tsunami, if it lands in the sea. Obviously, an asteroid similar to the one experienced 65 million years ago, could even destroy all life on the Earth.
Hopefully, in time, our governments will eventually accept the serious nature of a large impact and develop some way of protecting us. Unfortunately, at the moment they seem more interested in spending money on creating even more deadly weapons, and starting wars in which these can be used. One day, while we are busy killing each other, an asteroid may appear that will do the job for us, but much more quickly and effectively!
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