PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier is passing close to the Earth this evening, but amateur astronomers may have a hard time seeing it about 6:30, when it would be visible, because of the brightness of the nearly full moon.
In fact, Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute science museum, says they won’t even attempt a viewing from the Franklin Institute’s telescope because it’s just too bright in center city.
“If you wanted to try to see this, you’d need to work under dark skies, with at least a six-inch telescope, and you’d have to know exactly where to look for it,” says Pitts. “And, I would also suspect that you’d need to have pretty good observing skills in order to be able to identify it.”
Pitts says the reason the space rock – dubbed 2005 YU55 – has grabbed attention is because it’s coming relatively close (that is, the distance between the Earth and the asteroid is less than that of the distance between the Earth and the moon.)
“This certainly does raise people’s attention when they think of something this close. But, in fact, it’s not really a threat to Earth, because it won’t come any closer and it actually is traveling above the plane of the orbit of both the Earth and the moon.”
Pitts says the asteroid will show up in the east-southeast portion of the sky in the vicinity of the constellation Pegasus. He says the asteroid is moving quickly and is relatively dim.
Reported by Mark Abrams, KYW Newsradio 1060