An asteroid 400 meters across is set to ‘skim’ Earth on November 8th, passing with in the Moon’s orbit. This will give astronomers (and everyone else) the chance to see the asteroid (designated 2005 YU55) ‘up close’ in a way that would normally require a space mission to achieve.
Such asteroids are estimated to come close to the Earth every 25 years, but this is the first time we have had such advance warning; this is largely due to the work of the Near Earth Object (NEO) program of NASA. The NEO team was set up to detect and track potentially hazardous objects (such as asteroids and comets) that could be a threat to Earth.
2005 YU55 isn’t a hazard. At closest approach it will be around 320,000 kilometers away from us; which astronomically speaking is a close call but not anything to worry ourselves about. That said, I confidently predict that we’ll be reading about how it’s going to cause the end-of-civilisation-as-we-know-it in a few days time.
Where’s Bruce Willis when you need him?