NASA recently released a 1-minute-long footage of 1999 JD6, a mountain-sized asteroid that whizzed by Earth this weekend at about 4.5 million-mile (7.2 million kilometers) distance from our planet.
The short clip was made with help from two of NASA’s gigantic radio telescopes. We can clearly see that the asteroid was dubbed “space peanut” for a reason. It does have two lobes that make it very similar to a groundnut (watch video below).
Scientists are currently debating how the space rock obtained that shape. Dr. Amy Mainzer from the space agency’s NEOWISE program explained that there may be two possibilities. Either there were two “big chunks” which attached to one another during their endless journey across space or 1999 JD6 is the remnant of a larger space rock which had survived a large collision.
But its shape is not unique. Researchers working with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory argued that nearly 15 percent of moderately large asteroids that closely buzz Earth from time to time are peanut-shaped.
The recently observed asteroid, which is also known as a “contact binary” asteroid in scientific papers rather than a “space peanut,” whizzed by Earth on July 25 at a distance that is 19 times larger than the distance between our planet and its moon.
The short clip was compiled from imagery taken by NASA’s radio telescopes over the course of eight hours. The space agency’s engineers produced the footage through a method dubbed “bistatic observation.” This method requires two radar telescopes to exchange radar signals after reflecting off of the space rock.
During 1999 JD6’s flyby, the Deep Space Network antenna in California transmitted a radar signal at the asteroid. Seconds later the signal bounced back to Earth and was captured by the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. And so on.
NASA experts argue that radar imagery is the most accurate when it comes to moving asteroids. But there is a drawback, Dr. Mainzer explained. Radar telescopes need to be relatively close to the space object they plan to map because radar waves need not only to leave Earth but also bounce off and get back on Earth to ground receivers.
She also explained that, if an asteroid gets close enough to our planet, the level of detail of radar imagery can only be matched by closely visiting spacecrafts.
The latest asteroid doesn’t pose a threat to life on Earth, but some space experts cautioned that somewhere out there in the depths of space may lurk a potentially dangerous space rock. Yet luckily, space agencies work toward finding a mechanism that can offset such threats.
Image Source: Techie News
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