An asteroid, named 2005 YU55, has got astronomers around the world excited as it is set to pass within 198,000 miles (319,000km) of Earth – even closer than the moon – at 2328 GMT on Tuesday night. The asteroid, which is a quarter of a mile wide, is the closest such a large object that is being tracked has come to the planet Earth. NASA has said those worried about it crashing into Earth need not be alarmed as there is only an estimated one in 10 million chance of it impacting the planet. They added that if it did impact the planet, the strike would unleash the blast equivalent of several thousand megatonnes of TNT.
Unfortunately for those without astronomy equipment, the asteroid will not be visible to the naked eye, even with clear skies. However, for those with a telescope it will offer an unrivalled up close look at the surface of a large asteroid. Professional astronomers are hoping to use the opportunity to learn more about asteroids and find out about the surface and chemical composition of this particular asteroid. As the asteroid is approaching from the direction of the sun, there will be far too much glare to observe it using an optical telescope until Tuesday, when it will be closest to Earth.
The asteroid is one of the oldest objects in our solar system and was formed from the gas and dust that surrounded the sun around 4.5bn years ago. It was revealed last year that the asteroid is extremely spherical and dark, leading many to believe it is rich in Carbon. The next close asteroid flyby of Earth will not be until 2028 when an asteroid, called 2001 WN5, will come within 143,000 miles of earth. In 2041, 2005 YU55 will again pass-by the planet Earth.