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Closest encounter by asteroid in 35 years

world Updated: Nov 06, 2011 18:52 IST

An asteroid larger than an aircraft carrier will dart between the Earth and Moon on Tuesday. It will be the closest encounter by such a huge space rock in 35 years.

The asteroid, named 2005 YU55, is a quarter-mile across and is being watched by ground antennas in California and Puerto Rico as it approaches from the direction of the Sun, the Daily Express reported.

The closest point will occur at 11.28 pm on Tuesday when the asteroid passes within 202,000 miles of Earth and 150,000 miles from the Moon.

Unlike any fictional asteroid, scientists say, this will not threaten to destroy Earth.

"We're 100% confident that this is not a threat," said Don Yeomans, the manager of NASA's Near Earth Object Programme.

According to Jay Melosh, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue University in Indiana, both -- the Earth and Moon -- are safe "this time".

If 2005 YU55 was to hit earth, it would blast out a crater four miles across and 1,700ft deep, said Melosh.