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Last weekend, a peanut-shaped asteroid zoomed past Earth at 4.5 million miles away, which is 19 times the distance between our planet and the Moon. The peanut-shaped asteroid managed to reach the highest proximity to Earth that it will achieve until the year 2054. That means planet Earth will have another close up with this asteroid in 40 years.
The funny-shaped space rock was discovered by the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search, from Flagstaff, Arizona, on May 12, 1999. The peanut-shaped asteroid was named 1999 JD6. NASA used radio telescopes, in order to measure the size, shape and rotation of the asteroid.
NASA used a 70-meter DSS-14 antenna at the Goldstone Complex in California’s Mojave Desert, to send Radar signals towards the funny shaped 1999 JD6 space rock. The signals were received by the very large NRAO Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.
NASA captured radar images of asteroids, as small as 12 feet, from millions of miles away. With the help of radio telescopes, NASA found out that the peanut-shaped asteroid measures approximately 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) on its long axis. The 1999 JD6 asteroid is considered a contact binary, or one that has two lobes stuck to each other. This peanut shape is not an odd characteristic, if you consider that 15 percent of near-Earth asteroids larger than 600 feet have a similar form.
According to the leader of NASA’s asteroid radar research program, Lance Benner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the funny looking asteroid named 1999 JD6 has been extensively studied, in order to determine its physical properties and also its trajectory.
According to these studies, the peanut-shaped asteroid rotates in just over seven-and-a-half hours and is thought to be a relatively dark object.
NASA used the Radars powerful technique in order to improve the calculation of the of asteroids orbits.
Astronomers used a technique called bistatic observation to improve the amount of details shown in the radar images. This technique uses the Goldstone antenna to beam radar signals at the asteroid, and then receives the reflections by using the Green Bank.
NASA collected the data about the 1999 JD6 asteroid on 25 July, and used the individual images to create a 40 min movie that spans a period of about seven hours.
With the help of the radar measurements, NASA determined that Earth will be zoomed again by this peanut-shaped asteroid in 2054, at approximately the same distance of this week’s flyby.
Image Source: creationscience