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News Release 11-238

Asteroid Approaches Earth on November 8: Discuss It Online With an NSF Astronomer

Chat online November 8 with an NSF astronomer about a rare large asteroid that will travel closer to Earth than the moon does

the Earth viewed from space.

Asteroid 2005 YU55 will pass within 0.85 lunar distances from the Earth on November 8, 2011.

November 7, 2011

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

On the evening of Nov. 8, 2011, an outlet-mall-sized asteroid, known as "2005 YU55," will flyby Earth, missing it by only 200,000 miles. This close encounter--a rare event for a near-Earth object of its size having a diameter of 400 meters or 1,330 feet--will create exceptional observing opportunities for scientists and backyard astronomers using telescopes.

On November 8 at 1:30 p.m. EDT--six hours before the asteroid's flyby--The Washington Post will host a live online chat about the asteroid with National Science Foundation (NSF) astrophysicist Thomas Statler. Statler is a planetary scientist with special expertise in near-Earth objects.

The chat provides an excellent opportunity to ask Statler about these and other topics:

  • What, if any, potential threat will 2005 YU55 pose to Earth on this flyby or on its future flybys;
  • The real dangers that are potentially posed by asteroids and other near-Earth objects vs. threats hyped by doomsayers;
  • The types of information that observations of 2005 YU55 may reveal about our solar system, the origins of life, the asteroid's composition and history, other near-Earth objects, and possible strategies for avoiding potential future hits by asteroids;
  • The high-tech methods that will be used to observe 2005 YU55;
  • The probability that a near-Earth object will ever hit the Earth;
  • How and where backyard astronomers may view 2005;
  • Planetary motions.

The Washington Post chat with Statler will be archived online after it is completed.

In addition, on Nov. 3, 2011, Science magazine hosted a live online chat about 2005 YU55 with Scott Fisher, another NSF astronomer, which is also archived online.


Media Contacts
Lily Whiteman, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-8310, email:

Program Contacts
Thomas Statler, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-8310, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, its budget is $8.1 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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