MOSCOW, November 8 (Itar-Tass) —— Asteroid YU55 presents no danger although it is the largest celestial body that may come close to the planet before 2020. The asteroid will pass by at a safe distance, head of the space astrometry department of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Astronomy Institute Lidia Rykhlova told Itar-Tass.
“As far as we know, this is the largest celestial body to near the Earth before 2020. However, it will pass by at the distance of 325,000 kilometers, which does not present any threat,” she said. “More attention should be given to Asteroid Apophis, which will fly by along a practically geostationary orbit, 36,000 kilometers, in 2029.”
Asteroid YU55 of about 400 meters in diameter will fly by the Earth at 11:28 p.m. GMT (3:28 a.m. MSK). NASA, which had been tracking the approaching asteroid, said it had a spherical form and turned around once in every 18 hours.
If YU55 had fallen down, the impact would have been equivalent to a quake of 7 points and it would have made a crater of 6.4 kilometers in diameter and 518 meters in depth. “A rather big city would have been destroyed,” Rykhlova said. If the asteroid had fallen into a sea, the tidal wave would have been 22 meters tall.
“Although this visitor is not dangerous, the general risk of an encounter with an asteroid or a comet is rather large. YU 55 belongs to the group of asteroids approaching the Earth, which means it will visit us again in the future. As a rule, such visit is accompanied with a change of the asteroid orbit. It will be impossible to predict its trajectory in the long run,” Rykhlova said.
Russia is totally unprotected from the asteroid hazard, “it has nothing to trace them with and cannot protect itself from such dangers,” she said. Russia has no wide-angle telescopes left after the disintegration of the former Soviet Union. Such an observatory is under construction in Irkutsk, but the construction works are slow, she said. “So, we receive the entire information from America,” the expert added.
It is necessary to react to the space threat, but Russia has not even approved the asteroid protection program prepared by the Astronomy Institute, she lamented.