A strangely peanut shaped asteroid discovered in 1999 passed by Earth on July 25, 2015, in the closest pass-by in more than a century.
NASA observed the asteroid as it came the closest to Earth in more than a century. The peanut-shaped asteroid passed by our planet at the distance of 4.5 million miles. In other words, approximately 19 times the distance between the moon and Earth.
The asteroid, known as 1999 JD6 travelled at a speed of 45,410 miles per hour, which allowed researchers at NASA’s to gather extra information on the 1.2 miles asteroid.
Two radio telescopes were directed towards the asteroid as it zipped by in order to capture radio signals and fine tuned images of 1999 JD6.
One of the radio telescopes is located in the Mojave Desert, California in the Goldstone Complex and sports a 70 meter DSS-14 antenna. The other is the NRAO Green Bank Telescope located in West Virginia.
Thanks to these two, more data on the rotation, size and shape of the asteroid could be gathered. For those of us wishing to take a glance at the asteroid, NASA compiled a video showing 1999 JD6 completing its rotation in approximately seven hours and a half.
As for the asteroid’s shape, it is common for contact binary objects to look like an elongated peanut. It seems these could be the result of gravitational attraction between two objects that are thus stuck in one compact shape.
“Radar imaging has shown that about 15 percent of near-Earth asteroids larger than 600 feet [about 180 meters], including 1999 JD6, have this sort of lobed, peanut shape,”
stated Lance Benner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The asteroid was discovered in 1999 by researchers at the Lowell Observatory, located in Flagstaff, Arizona. As it stands, the peanut shaped object takes 302.8 days to complete an orbit around the Sun.
Meanwhile, this Earth flyby at 4.5 million miles will only be observed again in 2054, July 25th. Until then, the asteroid will pass Earth several times, but none of the encounters will be quite so close.
Photo Credits: echo.jpl.nasa.gov