back to article Colossal dead black neo-sphere approaching Earth

A gigantic, spinning, dead black spherical object dubbed YU55 and approximately of the same bulk as a nuclear aircraft carrier is expected to make a close pass by planet Earth on Tuesday night, coming well inside the orbit of the Moon. NEO YU55 imaged by the Arecibo radar telescope. Credit: NASA Looks a bit like that thing …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Units !

    Yet more uncontrolled proliferation of unitage - Get a grip, Reg.

  2. AceRimmer1980
    IT Angle

    No calls unless it's Mr Shadow

    It's Mr Shadow.

  3. Ragarath


    Anyone else see the resemblance? Anyone? ANYONE PLEASE! Get the nukes out arrrrggghhhhh.

  4. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    That's not a moon !!

    Had to be said

  5. Solly

    "That's no moon"

    "I've got a bad feeling about this"


    1. Richard Scratcher

      It's too big to be a space station


  6. Adrian Challinor

    New unit of measurement

    It seems we have a new UoM. The mass of a Near Earth Objects are measured in terms nuclear aircraft carriers.

    YU55, with a NEO with a mass of 1 Gerald R. Ford, will not hit earth.

    Mines the one with "Dummy guide to Extinction Events" in the pocket.

    1. vonBureck

      Nearly right...

      Let's just call it "1 gerald" and be done with it (with extra anorak points for the Blackadder reference).

    2. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      Misleading Units

      "same bulk as a nuclear aircraft carrier"

      Bulk? do they mean mass? or volume? Which nuclear aircraft carrier? What is it in double decker buses or even brontosauruseseseses

      FS Charles De Gaulle, 40,600 tons

      The Kiev, 42,000 tons

      USS Enterprise (CVN-65): 93,500 tons

      Nimitz class: 101,000 tons

      The Gerald R. Ford is scheduled to join the U.S. Navy’s fleet in 2015 at a displacement of approx 100,000 tons.

      No wonder they keep loosing satellites on Mars

    3. Volker Hett

      since my garden pond is too small for a nuclear aircraft carrier, I wonder what that is in bulgarian airbags.

  7. D@v3


    Will we be able to see it?

    Although, of course in Blighty at this time of year, cloud cover is a dead cert.

    1. Peter Ford

      See it?

      No. It's black.

    2. Armando 123

      To paraphrase Red Dwarf

      You see, the color of space, you basic space color, is black. And the color of YU55, your basic YU55 color, is black. So how are you supposed to see it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Black isn't a colour


      2. D@v3

        well, if it is close enough

        then you may be able to see it during the day (much like you can see the moon during the day)

        or if it is sufficiently black, it could pass in front of something that is not black, like the moon......

      3. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        @Armando 123 didn't I read that scientists had concluded last year that the colour of the universe was beige or possibly magnolia.

  8. Hitcotek

    Near Earth Object eh?


    How come the moon is held in orbit by the Earth's gravity, and yet this object of much less density can pass within that orbit and not be affected by. pulled in by, the Earth's Gravity?

    Just a thought.

    It has to at least be deflected by the gravity effect. I assume it's travelling at a fair speed so will just skim on by....

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Of course it's affected by Earth's gravity.

      It will do a hyperbola around Earth, no problem. As opposed to passing in a straight line.

      It's actually impossible to see in the app below, because Earth is not super-massive. If there were no Sun, the hyperbola would be really flat:

      If oyu haven't uninstalled Java:;orb=1 (Select Center on Earth)

    2. jubtastic1

      Theres a NASA animation of it crossing the moons orbit

      Looks a little like one of those slow motion bullet films, I think it's fair to say that if it collided with us it would be game over man.

      1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge


        That's not a mass extinction size. From memory, the collision that did for the dinosaurs was of a rock something around 10 miles across, massively larger than the rock we're talking about here. And even that didn't immediately wipe out the dinosaurs, the final extinction was a slower process around the change in the ecosystem that the impact caused.

        Still, you probably wouldn't want to try and catch it....


      2. Amonynous

        Read a book or two?

        a) Of course it is affected by the Earth's gravity, as well the gravity of the Moon, the Sun, and absolutely everything else in the universe that has mass. That includes the dense posts to this forum (electrons have mass before anyone shoots me down).

        See: if you slept through physics at school, or went to school after the 1980's when they apparently decided science was too hard and we should all study hotel management.

        b) The reason the thing doesn't crash in to your head is because it has too much momentum. If you attached a car to a tree with a really long elastic band (office type) and then drove past the tree at 100mp/h, do you think the car would keep going, the tree would fall over or something else would happen? (Answer: the car would speed up a tiny bit as the elastic band contracted, then slow down a tiny bit as the car starts stretching the band again). Not how gravity works, but a reasonable analogy nonetheless.

        Eventually the combined gravitational effects of the Sun, Earth and Moon (plus anything else in the solar system the object passes reasonably near by) might alter its orbit enough that the Earth happens to be in the way when the object is passing by. That is no more the Earth 'pulling the object down' than a sniper's bullet is pulled in to your head. Rather it's case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

        All that momentum would be transferred in to radiation(heat/light), sound, bits of rock and bits of you flying off in all directons, plus the earth's orbit and rotation would alter a small amount; vastly less than aforesaid car when a gnat splats on the windscreen.


        c) No it wouldn't be game over. This object is far to small to have a significant effect. Depending on what it was made from and how fast it was travelling, it would most likely break up in the atmosphere and chunks would hit the ground. There would be an impressive bang and you certainly wouldn't want to be too close to the impact, as tt would leave a crater about a mile wide and a third of a mile deep.

        There would be no fireball and if you were (say) 500 miles away, you probably wouldn't even wake up to notice anything had happened. You'd be watching it on the news over your toast if it hit land in an inhabited aread. Most likely it would fall in to the ocean and nobody would even notice.

        If you want to play 'End of the world', see:

        1. Alien Doctor 1.1


          it could hit Yellowstone and trigger the supervolcano, then we may have an "end of the world" event.

          1. Naughtyhorse

            kinda likle lancing a panglobal boil.


      3. Phalamir

        Are you serious?

        It's 400m across - well within "Put a Major Hurting on" but well below "Vaporize all of Blighty"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          That would depend on it's mass and velocity

          As of yet we only know it's 'bulk', which suggests volume. 1 Gerald, to be precise.

      4. PsychicMonkey

        shouldn't that be

        Mr flibble says, game over?

    3. Real Ale is Best

      Its called momentum

      See title.

    4. Liam Johnson

      Earth's gravity

      It is already being affected by Earth's gravity. Think of it like a rollercoaster, it will roll down one side gathering speed and the up and out of the other side.

      1. Monty Burns

        coooool! So slingshot?

        but will it come back in a short while with Scottsman that talks to mice and a pointy eared fellow with crap 80's I mean robe.... on?

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      The moon wasn't captured by earth, it formed from the stuff that was already floating around earth. Stop me if I get too technical. Most of the crap that was thrown into space when the other planet hit earth actually landed back on earth, some of it flew off into space but only a small amount had the right speed to start orbitting earth. This all formed together and made le moon. Most stuff that approaches us will either collide with us or sod off again. The speed and angle needed for earth to capture another body is quite unlikely, but possible.

      If you had a bowling ball in the middle of a trampoline and you start rolling marbles towards it, it's very hard to get the marbles to do a whole orbit around the bowling ball. Obviously friction would stop it from orbitting for any significant period of time, but you get the idea about trajectory and speed from this simple experiment.

    6. OziWan

      Re: Near Earth Object eh?

      The moon is not held in orbit by the earth's gravity. If you were an alien you would see our world as a dual planet not a single one.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        That is one good candidate for capture

        I say we grab it. Even if it is not a station now , it can become one.

        Much more worthy technological goal than the "expedition to Mars" and stuff. If we manage to get it to L1 or L2 between Earth and Moon it will sit nicely there and be 100 time more useful than a moon base.

  9. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Aha! Certainly an Inhibitor sphere.

    The only question is, does it have Earth's name on it?

    1. Ru


      Waaaaaay to slow for an Inhibitor. Way too obvious, too.

      And they're only interested in starfaring civilisations; we're quite safe.

      1. DavCrav

        "And they're only interested in starfaring civilisations; we're quite safe."

        *Now* you're glad NASA canned the space shuttle...

  10. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


    Is Mila Jovovich still qualified for being the 5th Element?

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      If she is only wearing a few bandages, she'll do fine for me.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bruce Willis on standby

    Now we just need some shuttles, what did we do with those?

    Oh shi-

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Are nuclear Carriers big compared with normal Carriers?

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        "Are nuclear Carriers big compared with normal Carriers?"


    2. Peter Clarke 1

      Bruce Willis on Standby 2

      All we need are the Shuttle AND some massive nukes. Better get them prepped. Oh, wait .....

      1. stucs201

        Nuking it a bad idea,

        Looks more like the object from a different Bruce Willis film, it'll get bigger if we nuke it.

  12. hplasm

    Weight class?

    Mass class!

    Back to astronomy class!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Delete, delete!

    If it's so big and so close, why is the photo so low resolution? Surely a near miss like this is worth training a high orbit satellite on and getting a decent photo?

    Or are they scared the public will panic when they see the network of metal surface tunnels and citadels, and the factories of 'spare parts' used by the native inhabitants?

    1. Tom 7

      Low resolution because

      if they took hi-res pictures they wouldn't have the excuse to spend lots of wonga sending a camera a further away out of the reach of astronaughties.

    2. Bill Neal

      low resolution

      because it is difficult to get high resolution at a distance with radio waves.

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        It's big compared to say, your house but at the distances we're talking about that's not particularly big at all. 860,000 miles is a hell of a long way you know.

  14. Neil Charles

    Definitely not a meteor

    How do you know?

    Well... er... it's slowing down.

  15. Paolo Marini


    is this one of those things with a tail?

    1. hplasm

      That would be-

      a dog?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no need to worry

    if it comes too close, the UK government will tax it back into orbit (or Cameron will make such a vomit inducing statement about its 'well being' that it will leave by itself).

  17. Jason Hindle

    If it starts to slow down as it approaches Earth

    Be afraid! Be very afraid!

  18. lawndart


    Just as well that NASA didn't name it WU55; that would have been asking for trouble on the next pass.

  19. fandom

    "darker than charcoal at optical wavelengths"

    That's a pity, it would have been quite a show if it were visible.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear Nasa

    Space knobheads are happy to send a probe millions of miles into space to land on an asteroid . How about launching some sort of probe at that thing and earn you wages.

  21. Velv

    The Medium Bang Theory

    "the closest approach to date by an object this large that we know about in advance"

    So if you read between the lines (and if you talk to those in the know), they actually admit that they don't see everything in advance. There are in fact many things that they only see once they go whizzing by.

    In other words, we probably won't see the rock that hits us on the 21st December 2012. :)

  22. Bunker_Monkey

    Thats no sphere!

    Its a cylinder!! - (Queue Jeffs WOTW score)

    Mines the one with the flu dart gun in it...

  23. Paolo Marini

    a good #shooter would know

    that wind affects projectiles...

  24. tardigrade

    Please God let it be a scout from a Culture GCV (General Contact Vehicle.) I can't wait for utopia, as long as it's not Special Circumstances that is.

    1. Anders Halling


      I could do without a visit from GCU (eccentric) Gray Area as well tyvm.

      An AI known among its peers as "meatfucker" is not pleasant company.

      1. M Gale

        Oh I don't know

        Grey looked like quite the witty thing, when it wasn't inflicting ironic torture on genocidal dictators.

        If you haven't killed a million people or so, I don't think you'd have much to worry about. It's just a big floating hyperintelligent London Dungeon. Madame Tussauds might even do an exhibit swap!

  25. t1mc

    We ain't got one

    It'll not be an issue for britain, we don't know what an aircraft carrier is.

    1. Gio Ciampa

      Yes we do...

      We are one, aren't we?

  26. Mike 125

    "YU55 poses no threat of an Earth collision over at least the next 100 years."

    *... unless of course, a friendly nudge by a piece of junk changes its orbit*. Encryption is safe and uncrackable... *given current technology*. Why oh why do they never circumscribe the risk? It's not hard to do.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I hope that is sarcastic

      Space Rock - Size of aircraft carrier and travelling much much much faster.

      Space Junk - Size ranging from a small car to really tiny, travelling not very fast.

      This would be kind of like watching what happens to a lorry when a fly strikes the windscreen.

  27. Boggwoppit

    supposed to be 2112

    Attention all Planets of the Solar Federation

    We have assumed control

    1. lpopman

      titular nonsense

      Good job I have a guitar to help fend off the threat then, isn't it?

      Now I'm feeling old :D

  28. Gordon 10

    Soo many options.....

    Im stuck in a decision loop trying to decide if a Rama, Troy Rising, Footfall, 5th Element, Smallville or Star Wars commentardly comment is best.

    /me fail.

    1. Lance S

      Rama - definitely Rama

      Rama - definitely Rama

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just stumbled across/over this sentence, readable not...

    "The space agency's current assessment of its orbit is that it is such as to regularly bring YU55 close to Earth: however it is won't crash into the mother planet this century at least...."

  30. Estariel

    So are you telling me that..... lights up black, on a black background......What is this, some kind of galactic.......

  31. Ross 7

    Proof of intelligent aliens!!!!!!!

    That picture is proof of intelligent alien life! That thing is clearly built out of Lego.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      SO then we need to be on the lookout for an alien wizard, who possibly resides in independence hall, playing with LEGO. Its the only explanation which makes sense here...

    2. Dazed and Confused

      Its not Lego

      Its Minecraft

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    some others have already do they KNOW its just a meteor? I'd say this is first strike - some super planet killer weapon - probably cos one of our early probes went and crashed into one of their planets...maybe even killed a few hundred people or smashed a bio-dome

    'hi, we're from earth, heres a copy of some jazz music' - WTF? ;-)

    or they are sick of all the junk we're emitting in RF - its playing havok with their planet-to-planet comms....finally their uber-civilisation can watch 'Planet A94VF's got talent'

    1. Dazed and Confused

      @AC- Really

      Nah, if we'd pissed off the Dwellers it would have been travelling much closer to light speed, and they can shoot straight.

  33. Ilgaz

    just hope

    Hope some developer didn't confuse units again. You know it happened, a billion dollar mistake :)

  34. richard 7

    Hello, Mr Zorgs office....

    .nuff said

  35. Graham Bartlett

    @AC, "Dear Nasa"

    Think about how long it takes to get those probes authorised, funded, built, tested and ready to go. This rock (assuming it is!) was spotted in 2005, which coincidentally happens to be the same year that ESA's ExoMars rover was approved. ExoMars is scheduled to launch in 2018. Go figure.

  36. Stewart McKenna

    Maybe I'm being a bit dense here, but isn't this the perfect opportunity to land a

    'probe' in this thing and have it collect and transmit data as it circles the Universe?

    1. Chris Glen-smith

      'fraid not..

      It's going too fast, we can't get a probe up to sufficeint speed to soft land on it without years in space doing gravity assists round massive planets like the Voyager probes did. i.e. catching a lift on a passing space rock is pointless as you have to be able to go that fast anyway.

      OTOH, I guess we could have put something up to get splatted like a fly as it wizzed by.

    2. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      a) how long do you think it would take to build the probe and it's launch vehicle and actually work out how to land the thing on the asteroid thingy? It's not like parking a car you know.

      b) "Circles the universe". If this thing was circling the universe, which it isn't, how long do you think that would take? IOW what's the point?

  37. Richard Scratcher

    Judgement Day

    It's the end of the world. Type YU55 into wingdings font and see what I mean.

    1. Jimbo 6
      Black Helicopters

      Eh ???

      Jews - Christians - filing cabinets ???

      Better (for all you 9/11 conspi^H^H^H^H truth seekers) is to change NYC into both webdings and wingdings

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, if the radars can see it,

    at least it isn't a negashpere. If it was a negasphere we'd all be DOOMED! DOOMED I tell you! DOOMED!

  39. illiad

    rendezvous with rama

    nobody read that??

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Rama was cylindrical, this one's more like a golf ball...

  40. Marco van Beek

    It's quiet. Too quiet...

    Maybe the image isn't low resolution, it just that all the faces have been pixelated out.... I knew there was a good reason for having a trenching tool in the back of my car.

  41. Stevie


    Aiee! To the bunker!

  42. Not_The_Droids

    This is the scout

    For the Hyperspace Bypass. I, for one, welcome our new Vogon overlords. Can I interest anyone in some poetry?

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Somebody call Will Smith!!

    Because that looks like the alien mothership from Independece Day!!

    I'm getting out my telegraph and . Reg readers may want to evacuate all major cities and Tivo enough TV to keep yourselves entertained when the aliens mess up our cable reception.

    What's with the heavens these days? First, Bruce Willis saves us from comet Elenin (Don't try to tell me it wasn't Bruce!) and now we get the evil resource-hungry alien strip-miners coming after us? Talk about a bad month!!!

  44. Aldhibah


    It is a radar image of the object so why does it look like it is eclipsed? Furthermore, as far away as it is right now what shadow could be overlaying it?

  45. Dorobuta


  46. MooseNC
    Thumb Up


    Looks like we're gonna have a new moon soon! I shall call her....Linda.....

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Linda Moon...

      Opens up interesting images that comment....

      How would you know when she was mooning...

      Because...She's Black....And...Space is black.......

  47. chebucto

    frog blast the vent core!

    see ya starside!

  48. Flybert

    Rumor tonight in US ..

    two sources .. one in DC and one in military saying Vandenberg AFB boards are lit up ready to launch an Atlas (Centaur) V at this thing tonight or early morning toward this rock .. either a probe or even a warhead to experiment with defection possibilities

  49. Mike Hebel

    Calling Captain Harlock! Calling Captain Harlock!

    The Mazone have sent another pennant to Earth!

    Quick! Everyone cut down all the trees and kill all the ladies with green hair as they might be Mazone soldiers!

  50. Mips

    All together now...


  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Rapture?

    Well maybe we'll finally be free of all those *insert particular deity(ies) of choice here*-bothering loonies after all, and the rest of us can actually get on with living...

  52. Gusty O'Windflap

    well at least the universe...

    has given me something nice for my birthday

  53. Dennis Wilson


    GREAT, the yanks miss Assange with a satellite, the Germans missed him with theirs, bollocks, please don't tell me their going for the prison bus.

  54. andy 45

    Planet X?

    It's Nibiru -- they've come for us at last...

  55. Kool-Aid drinker


    The truth is out there NEO.

    Coat on, door open...

  56. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    Where are the loonies? Shirely by now the internet should be awash with loonies telling us that the lump was going to come screaming through the atmosphere and destroy all life on earth, except the cockroaches. Oh, and that NASA are covering it up.

    Or is it all quiet because NASA managed to say it wasn't going to hit us before the nutters said it was? Perhaps it's only a conspiracy if a governmental agency are denying a claim made by the tinfoil hat brigade.

  57. jbuk1

    Maybe if we vent warp core plasma in to it's path it will ionize it giving us a higher resolution.....

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