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Nasa uses ground based radar to image asteroid that will safely fly past the Earth on 19 April
A massive 620 metre wide near-Earth asteroid is going to safely fly past the Earth on 19 April. Nasa’s 70 metre radar antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California has captured images of the asteroid. The series of images have revealed that the roughly peanut shaped asteroid rotates about once every five hours. The images have a resolution of about 7.5 metres per pixel.
Shantanu Naidu, a scientist from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who led the observations with the Goldstone antenna says, “The asteroid has a contact binary structure – two lobes connected by a neck-like region. The images show flat facets, concavities and angular topography.”
The asteroid has been designated as 2014 JO25, and was first observed in May 2014, by the Catalina Sky Survey, a part of Nasa’s Near Earth Object (NEO) identification program in collaboration with the University of Arizona.
There are two lobes on the asteroid, the larger of which is estimated to be 620 metres in width. The asteroid is believed to be a remnant of the planet formation process from the very early days of the solar system.
The asteroid will be further tracked by the Goldstone observatory, as well as the National Science Foundation facility in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Higher resolution images are expected from these observations, along with a more precise understanding of the orbital path of the object.
Such radar images of asteroids are possible only when the objects pass close to the Earth. Nasa tracks objects that are close to the orbit of the Earth under the asteroid watch program.