Published: Sun, July 15, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

Rare double asteroid scoots by Earth

Rare double asteroid scoots by Earth

One of the surprising things about 2017 YE5 is that the two space rocks that make up this binary asteroid (as it's called) are the same size, each measuring about 3,000 feet (900 meters) across.

The near-Earth asteroid 2017 YE5 is actually two asteroids. Optical observations were used to measure the brightness of the binary asteroid, which confirmed the findings from the three radar telescopes.

The discovery of asteroid 2017 YE5 is a saga spanning six months and four observatories from Morocco to California.

Though it's classified as potentially hazardous, the asteroid's June visit was the closest it'll come to our planet for at least 170 years.

A team of scientists from the Palomar Observatory in the United States July 8, 2018 fixed in the Solar system from two previously unidentified asteroid. They saw two objects which orbited each other!

Astronomers at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and West Virginia's Green Bank Observatory teamed up to photograph the approaching object.

Interestingly, the two parts of the asteroid 2017 YE5 have nearly the same size. The pair revolve around each other once every 20 to 24 hours. This means that 2017 YE5 reflects less light than your typical rocky asteroid and "is likely as dark as charcoal", states NASA.

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Despite being size twins, the asteroids probably have a different surface composition, density or surface roughness (or more than one of those factors), since their individual reflectivity differed.

On June 21, the asteroid got closer to Earth, allowing astronomers to find out more about it. Well, when 2017 YE5 was first spotted, we had no clue about its physical properties.

NASA's Goldstone system has observed 50 binary asteroid systems since 2000, but the majority feature one larger rock and a smaller satellite.

According to an analysis by scientists of the asteroid poses no threat to our planet.

The observation also proved the asteroids to have a distinct gap between them.

Patrick Taylor of the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, led the bi-static radar observations with GBO, home of the Green Bank Telescope (GBT), the world's largest fully steerable radio telescope. But if both asteroids are of almost equal size then the foci of their orbit sit in empty space, with neither asteroid acting as the center.

The Arecibo, Goldstone and USRA planetary radar projects are funded through NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program within the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), which manages the Agency's Planetary Defense Program.

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