Six radar observations manufactured from an asteroid swinging by our planet have revealed an unusually rectangular house rock. The article is thrice so long as it’s large—an irregular form, so far as asteroids are involved.
The asteroid, known as 2011 AG5, is in regards to the form and measurement of the Empire State Constructing, minus the 222-foot antenna after all. The asteroid’s nearest strategy to Earth occurred on February 3, when it got here inside 1.1 million miles of our planet. (When scientists discuss shut approaches, they’re normally talking comparatively.) The Webb Area Telescope, for comparability, is about 1 million miles from Earth.
The asteroid was detected in 2011 however solely not too long ago got here shut sufficient for scientists to get an excellent look. It’s about 1,600 ft lengthy and 500 ft large, and was noticed by the Goldstone Photo voltaic System Radar at a Deep Area Community facility between January 29 and February 4.
In line with the crew that noticed and measured the asteroid, it’s very lengthy. “Of the 1,040 near-Earth objects noticed by planetary radar thus far, this is among the most elongated we’ve seen,” mentioned Lance Benner, a principal scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in an agency release.
The crew additionally discovered that 2011 AG5’s rotation price is pretty gradual: It takes 9 hours for the item to finish a rotation. The asteroid’s subsequent flyby of Earth gained’t happen till 2040, when it’ll cross us at a distance of roughly 670,000 miles, about thrice as distant because the Moon. For now, it’s persevering with its 621-day orbit of the Solar.
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Close to-Earth objects swing by our planet with regularity, and NASA retains a cautious watch on them. Last month, an asteroid passed by safely about 2,200 miles above South America, making it one of many closest documented flybys of a near-Earth object.
NASA recently upgraded its impact monitoring system, which might assist the company put together for any near-Earth object that threatens to grow to be an impacting-Earth object. In September, NASA’s DART mission successfully changed the orbit of a small asteroid about 6.8 million miles from Earth, a groundbreaking demonstration of humanity’s capability to change the movement of objects in house.
The rectangular asteroid’s latest go to gave astronomers a possibility to raised perceive the range of shapes in house. Most things in space are spheres or discs, so it’s at all times enjoyable to search out an outlier.
More: An Asteroid Is Passing Earth Today, so Scientists Are Shooting It With Radio Waves