Space telescope spots asteroid fly-by

AS ASTEROID 2005 YU55 swept past Earth in the early morning hours of Wednesday, November 9, NASA’s Swift satellite joined professional and amateur astronomers around the globe in monitoring the fast-moving space rock.

The video above shows the asteroid zooming through space near Earth. The other dots are not the Earth and Moon, but background stars.

Although Swift is better known for its study of high-energy outbursts and cosmic explosions, the versatile satellite has made valuable observations of passing comets and asteroids as well.

Swift’s unique ultraviolet observations will aid scientists in understanding the asteroid’s surface composition.

Classified as a potentially hazardous object, 2005 YU55 poses no threat of a collision with Earth for at least the next century. But understanding the details of how its surface reflects light and heat will allow improved assessments of future hazards.

A body in space absorbs sunlight and reradiates the energy as heat, and both of these processes produce a miniscule force that, over time, can alter the object’s trajectory.

For Swift, the challenge with 2005 YU55 was its rapid motion across the sky, which was much too fast for Swift to track. Instead, the team trained the spacecraft’s optics at two locations along the asteroid’s predicted path and let it streak through the field.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / Swift / Stefan Immler and DSS.

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