2 asteroids just zipped by Earth, and NASA captured footage of the action

NASA’s Goldstone planetary radar system recently recorded two near-Earth asteroids, 2024 MK and 2011 UL21, flying by our planet. Perhaps alarmingly, one was only detected 13 days before it was safely bypassed Worldbut scientists at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California to make sure it was not a threat. However, the images they were able to gather were extremely informative.

“There was no risk of either near-Earth object impacting our planet, but the radar observations taken during these two close approaches will provide valuable practice for planetary protectionas well as information about their sizes, orbits, rotations, surface data and clues to their composition and formation,” the team wrote in a press release.

The Goldstone Solar System Radar is located in the desert near Barstow, California. With its 70-meter long (230-foot-long) and fully steerable antenna (DSS-14) – the world’s only fully steerable radar for high-resolution ranging and imaging – it provides full-sky coverage and removal use it. to objects of interest within the Solar system for the last three decades.

In that time, he managed to gather invaluable information about another planet, oh mercury to Saturnand supported numerous exploration missions, such as the Mars Exploration Rovers, the Cassini Saturn mission, the Hayabusa asteroid probe, the SOHO recovery of the solar watch probe, the Lunar Prospector, and the Venus– studying Magellan’s effort.

Related: ‘God of Destruction’ asteroid Apophis will hit Earth in 2029 – and could host a tiny spacecraft

As seen this week, it has also been used to track and study near Earth asteroids, helping to prevent potential impact hazards and identify targets for future exploration missions. Radar is a powerful tool for studying asteroid properties and asteroid orbits – the ground-based station transmits radio waves to the asteroids, then receives reflected signals that scientists can use to gather relevant information. If the “echo” of an object is strong enough, radar imaging can achieve spatial resolution to identify features as fine as 10 meters (32 meters) in size.

Hello asteroids; safe asteroids

On June 27, the radar system tracked asteroid 2011 UL21 as it made its way past Earth at a distance of 4.1 million miles (6.6 million kilometers). As the name suggests, the asteroid knows it NASA scientists since 2011, after it was discovered during the Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson, Arizona.

About a mile wide (1.6 kilometers wide), this object was the first to come close enough to be imaged by an Earth-planted radar, allowing scientists to determine that its shape is roughly spherical and that it has its own “moon” attached to it. orbits a distance of about 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) from the asteroid.

“About two-thirds of asteroids of this size are thought to be binary systems, and their discovery is particularly important because we can use measurements of their relative positions to estimate their mutual orbits, masses and densities, which provides important information about how they are made. could have done,” said Lance Benner, a principal scientist at JPL who helped lead the observations.

an ugly pixel rock is spinning in black space.

an ugly pixel rock is spinning in black space.

Although NASA scientists say that due to its size, UL21 is classified as potentially hazardous in 2011, calculations of the asteroid’s orbit show that it will not pose a serious threat in the near future.

Then, just two days later, another asteroid appeared. The same team saw asteroid 2024 MK pass our planet by a distance of 184,000 miles (295,000 kilometres), just over three-quarters of the distance between the moon and Earth. Such close-up approaches are rare, according to the team, but provide valuable insights that would otherwise be difficult to obtain.

“This was a great opportunity to investigate the physical properties and obtain detailed images of a near-Earth asteroid,” Benner said.

2024 MK was first identified on June 16 by the Asteroid Terrestrial Impact Alert System (ATLAS) at the Sutherland Observing Station in South Africa. “Earth’s gravity changed its orbit as it passed, reducing its orbital period by about 3.3 years the sun about 24 days,” the team said in the release.

an ugly image of the same space rocket showing different angles in a sea of ​​ugly black and white.a grainy image of the same space rocket showing different angles in a sea of ​​grainy black and white.

a grainy image of the same space rocket showing different angles in a sea of ​​grainy black and white.

Related Stories:

– When a dangerous asteroid threatens Earth, humanity will have to work together, says NASA

— Deflecting deadly asteroids away from Earth: How we could do it

— This is what would happen if scientists found an asteroid heading for Earth

On June 29, scientists again transmitted radio waves to 2024 MK – but, that time, received the return signal with a DSS-13 Goldstone 114-foot (34-meter) antenna rather than a DSS-14. “This ‘biostatic’ radar observation produced a detailed image of the asteroid’s surface, revealing concavities, ridges and boulders about 30 feet (10 meters) wide,” they wrote.

About 500 feet (150 meters) wide, this asteroid appears elongated and angular, with prominently flat and rounded regions. Although it is also classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid, calculations of its future motion show that it is not a threat to our planet for the foreseeable future.

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