Asteroid comes close to Earth as astronomers watch fascinated

Giant object comes closer than moon

LOUISBURG, Kan. - If you're starting to get the feeling that something's hanging over your head, you're right.

Something huge is coming our way, and at Powell Observatory in Louisburg, Kansas, they're keeping a close eye on it.

Joe Wright is monitoring the skies, because 2005 YU55 is nearing Earth.

The asteroid at its closest will be about 200,000 miles from Earth. It may not sound that close, but that's nearer than the moon.

"This is a near miss," Wright said.

But these things are usually small, right?

"You're talking about 1,300 feet or so in size. You can imagine the magnitude of an impact something like that would cause," Wright said.

Wright says the famous crater in Arizona was made by an object the size of a house.

So the 2005 YU55 is extremely large and is coming incredibly close.

It's happened before; in the mid 1970s a similar close call went undetected at first.

"Space is full of stuff," Wright observed.

So much so, that they lose track of these things all the time.

"Routinely the Minor Planet Center will put out a hotlist of asteroids that they're unsure of the orbit and ask observatories all over the world to try to find these asteroids," he said.

Fortunately astronomers like Wright are keeping watch. He assures us Earth is safe, and in fact he's pretty happy about this close call.

"It really gives us a chance to really see something up close without having to spend the money to travel to it," he said.

The asteroid's closest brush with Earth is at about 5:30 p.m. Nov. 8, 2011.

Unfortunately the weather here isn't cooperating and even with a telescope all you'll see ... is clouds.

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