Earth flyby of ‘space peanut’ captured in new video
NASA researchers have used 2 giant, Earth-based radio telescopes to bounce radar signals off a passing asteroid and produce representations of the peanut-shaped body as it come close to Earth this past weekend.
The asteroid appears to be a contact binary—an asteroid with 2 lobes that are stuck together.
The pictures show the rotation of the asteroid, called 1999 JD6, which made its closest approach on July 24 at 9:55 p.m. PDT (12:55 a.m. EDT on July 25) at a distance of about 4.5 million miles (7.2 million kilometers).
“Radar imaging has shown that about 15% of near-Earth asteroids bigger than 600 feet [about 180 meters], including 1999 JD6, have this sort of lobed, peanut form,” said Lance Benner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who leads NASA’s asteroid radar exploration program.
Radar images of asteroid 1999 JD6 were obtained on July 25, 2015. The asteroid is between 660 – 980 feet (200 – 300 meters) in diameter.
To get the views, scientists paired NASA’s 230-foot-wide (70-meter), Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, with the 330-foot (100-meter), National Science Foundation Green Bank Telescope from West Virginia. Using this approach, the Goldstone antenna beams a radar signal at an asteroid and Green Bank obtains the reflections. The method, referred to as a biostatic observation, intensely improves the amount of detail that can be seen in radar images. The new representations obtained with the technique show features as small as about 25 feet wide (7.5 meters).
The distinct images used in the movie were produced from data collected on July 25. Pictures show the asteroid is extremely elongated, with a length of approximately 1.2 miles (2 kilometers), on its long axis. The movie spans a period of about 7 hours, 40 minutes.
This week is flyby was the closest approach the asteroid will make to our planet for about the next 40 years. Probably next time it will approach Earth this closely is in 2054, at approximately the same distance of this week’s flyby.Despite the uncertainty about its size, asteroid 1999 JD6 has been studied intensively and numerous of its physical properties, as well as its trajectory, are well known. This asteroid rotates in just over seven-and-a-half 7 hours and 30-40 minutes and is thought to be a relatively shady object. Asteroid 1999 JD6 was discovered on May 12, 1999, by the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search, situated in Flagstaff, Arizona. Radar is a powerful technique for studying an asteroid’s shape, size, surface features, surface roughness and rotation, and for improving the calculation of asteroid trajectories. Radar measurements of asteroid velocities and distances often enable computation of asteroid orbits much further into the future than would be possible otherwise.NASA places a high importance on tracking asteroids and protecting Earth from them. In fact, the United States has the most strong and productive survey and detection program for discovering near-Earth objects (NEOs). U.S. assets have discovered over 98% of the known NEOs.
See the captured video on official NASA’s YouTube channel at: