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Stargazing: No Armageddon, but asteroid will come close

Stargazing by Wayne Harris-Wyrick: One week from today, the Earth will not be destroyed. But an asteroid some 1,300 feet wide will pass close by our planet. Asteroid 2005 YU55 flies inside our moon's orbit, coming to within 201,700 miles.
BY WAYNE HARRIS-WYRICK Published: November 1, 2011
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You'll likely have no opportunity of seeing the asteroid. At it's brightest, it will require a good-size telescope to see. NASA and other astronomers will track it with radio and optical telescopes. For more information on asteroid YU55, go to the NASA website on the object at http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news171.html.

Leonid shower

On Nov. 17-18, Earth crosses through the debris of comet Tempel-Tuttle, creating the Leonid meteor shower. Normally a so-so shower with about 20 meteors per hour, it holds the record for meteor shower activity with 500,000 per hour, back in 1966. We cross through the thickest part of the debris cloud every 33 years and last did so in 1998. But there are clumps of debris here and there along the comet's path, and we may see a meteor every minute or two. Best viewing time will be around midnight.

Notes

We'll keep you informed of any celestial threats to our planet in our daily program “Tonight's Sky” in the Kirkpatrick Planetarium Star Theater. For more information, call 602-3761 or go to www.sciencemuseumok.org.

The Oklahoma City Astronomy Club meets at 6:45 p.m. Nov. 11. Guests are admitted free and are welcome.

Planet visibility report: Jupiter is up virtually all night. Venus, the brilliant “Evening Star” is up at sunset, setting about an hour after sunset. Mars rises around midnight, and both Mercury and Saturn are tough to see now. Full moon occurs Nov. 10 with new moon Nov. 25.

Wayne Harris-Wyrick is director of the Kirkpatrick Planetarium at Science Museum Oklahoma. Questions or comments may be emailed to wwyrick@sciencemuseumok.org.