On Tuesday night, astronomers and skywatchers may get a rare glimpse of an asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier. The behemoth is expected to fly by at a distance closer than the moon.

The 1,300 feet wide asteroid, dubbed 2005 YU55, will be within 201,700 miles (324,600 kilometers) of the planet at 6:28 p.m. EST (23:28 GMT). This is the first time since 1976 that a cosmic object of this size has passed the planet and it is unlikely to be repeated before 2028, a NASA report suggested.

How and Where to Watch?

Asteroid 2005 YU55 will be visible from the Earth's northern hemisphere. However, the fast moving asteroid will not be visible to the naked eye. Space.com has some useful tips on catching the asteroid as it flies past.

According to Scott Fisher, program director at the National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences, spotting the asteroid could be tricky. His suggestion is that those interested equip themselves with a telescope that has, at least, a six-inch mirror.

It is going to be VERY faint, even at its closest approach. You will need a decent-sized telescope to be able to actually see the object as it flies by, said Fisher, adding that the best time to observe the phenomenon would be the early evening hours, from the U.S. East Coast.

Furthermore, according to Sky & Telescope, a few hours after passing by, the asteroid will peak in brightness at magnitude 11.1, roughly 100 times fainter than the limit of human vision. Alan MacRobert, senior editor at the magazine, says the flying rock could potentially be spotted with a telescope if it has an aperture of at least 6 to 8 inches.

To determine where to look, Sky & Telescope's editors have prepared two detailed finder charts. The first chart provides a general sense of where to look, while the second provides a detailed view to use while outside with a telescope.


Best seen from North America, the little asteroid 2005 YU55 will race far across the constellations in just 11 hours on the night of November 8-9, 2011. Click on the image for a more detailed chart. Photo: Sky & Telescope illustration

The path of the asteroid 2005 YU55 is plotted for just over an hour on the evening of November 8th for North America, from 1:51 to 3:12 Universal Time on November 9th. (To convert Universal Time to your time zone, subtact 5 hours for EST, 6 for CST, 7 for MST, and 8 for PST.) North is up; east is left. On each of the little upside-down maps of the U.S., put a pencil dot on your location. These are the asteroid’s apparent positions at 2:00 and 3:00 UT for your site. Connect your dots with a straight line paralleling the line plotted, which is for Kansas. Photo: Sky & Telescope illustration

Space enthusiasts can also follow the asteroid's coordinates at any given time. These are available at the Web site.of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Solar System Dynamics  In addition, NASA is offering another portal - the Asteroid and Comet Watch on the main NASA site.


This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 was obtained on Nov. 7, 2011, at 11:45 a.m. PST (2:45 p.m. EST/1945 UTC), when the space rock was at 3.6 lunar distances, which is about 860,000 miles, or 1.38 million kilometers, from Earth. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Finally, NASA has released a new radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55. The image, was obtained on Nov. 7 at 11:45 a.m. PST (2:45 p.m. EST), when the space rock was approximately 860,000 miles, or 1.38 million kilometers, from Earth, said the agency.