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Huge asteroid to buzz Earth in November

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"YU55 poses no threat of an Earth collision over, at the very least, the next 100 years," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL. "During its closest approach, its gravitational effect on the Earth will be so minuscule as to be immeasurable. It will not affect the tides or anything else." [5 Reasons to Care About Asteroids]

This round space rock has been in astronomers' cross hairs before. In April 2010, astronomers at the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico generated some ghostly radar images of 2005 YU55 when the asteroid was about 1.5 million miles (2.3 million km) from Earth.

But those pictures had a resolution of just 25 feet (7.5 meters) per pixel. The November close pass should provide some sharper images.

"When 2005 YU55 returns this fall, we intend to image it at 4-meter resolution [13 feet] with our recently upgraded equipment at the Deep Space Network at Goldstone, California," said JPL radar astronomer Lance Benner. "Plus, the asteroid will be seven times closer. We're expecting some very detailed radar images."

A radar astronomy opportunity

Radar astronomy employs the world's biggest dish-shaped antennas. The antennas direct microwave signals at celestial targets that can be as far away as the moons of Saturn.

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