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NASA Prepares to Bounce Signals Off of Asteroid 2005 YU55


NASA is making final preparations for the Nov. 8 fly-by of asteroid 2005 YU55. As I reported last month, the Asteroid 'Fly-By' Will Produce Radio Echoes. Tracking will begin next Friday (Nov. 4) at 9:20 a.m. and continue for at least four hours each day, Nov. 6-10. Radar observations from Arecibo Planetary Radar Facility in Puerto Rico will begin on Nov. 8, when the asteroid makes its closest approach to Earth at 3:28 p.m. Radar images collected from the Goldstone Deep Space Network antenna could be as fine as 7 feet per pixel.

JPL recently updated its 2005 YU55 Goldstone Radar Observations Planning website with details on the observations, including SNR (signal to noise ratio) calculations, Oct. 30-Nov. 18 at Goldstone and Nov. 8-24 at Arecibo.

The JPL site has this note to optical observers: "We intend to provide radar astronometry shortly after the November 4 Goldstone track through the JPL/Horizons online ephemeris system. This should shrink the uncertainties sufficiently for other observatories to track this object once it enters the night sky on November 8."

Some disaster web sites have noticed FEMA's National EAS Alert test is scheduled the day after the asteroid will pass closest to Earth. Do not worry, at least for now. The JPL page referenced earlier says "Due to its size and proximity to Earth, the Minor Planet Center has designated 2005 YU55 as a 'Potentially Hazardous Asteroid.' Despite this designation, this object cannot hit Earth during the entire interval over which its motion can be computed reliably."