Published: Mon, July 16, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

Observatories Team Up to Reveal Rare Double Asteroid

Observatories Team Up to Reveal Rare Double Asteroid

The new images produced by the telescopes are the most detailed ever of this type of binary asteroid and indicate that its two components are each about 3,000 feet (900 meters) in size. According to the United States national space agency, new observations dramatically increased the amount of data previously known about this type of binary asteroids.

In late June the rock made its closest pass of Earth for the next 170 years, so scientists chose to spend a little more time studying it before it heads back out again.

On June 21 and 22, the observations observed by NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar (GSSR) in California show the first signal that the 2017YE5 binary system could be a binary system. The observations showed two distinct lobes, but astronomers could not determine if the two bodies were connected or separated. Eventually, the rotation of the binary system exposed a gap between the duo, confirming that they are indeed two separate asteroids.

Once the true nature of the asteroid (s) was known, astronomers from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico began to alert other observatories.

On June 24, scientists worked with researchers at the Global Band Observatory (RDO) in West Virginia, USA, and two simultaneous surveys were used simultaneously with two-station static radar (the ARCB radar Signal transmission and the Green Bank signal).

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It's a particularly exciting surprise because the two pieces of 2017 YE5 are nearly the same size, each about 3,000 feet (900 meters) across.

"By June 26, both Goldstone and Arecibo had independently confirmed the asteroid's binary nature". In fact, scientists said, 2017 YE5 is likely as dark as charcoal. "This is only the fourth "equal mass" binary near-Earth asteroid ever detected, consisting of two objects almost identical in size, orbiting each other", read NASA's statement. Equal-mass binaries like 2017 YE5 are much rarer.

An asteroid first discovered in December of past year has now been revealed to be a unique system featuring two objects locked in a dance around their own binary orbit.

The bouncing-baby asteroids were revealed by three radar telescopes, which shoot a beam of radio waves at nearby asteroids and wait for the reflection to return to Earth. Equal-mass binaries like 2017 YE5 are much rarer. Most binary asteroids are uneven, with one half dwarfing the other. The combined radar and optical observations of YE5 may allow researchers to estimate the densities of the two objects, giving researchers a better understanding of their composition, internal structure and how they formed. The Arecibo Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by the University of Central Florida, Yang Enterprises, and Universidad Metropolitana. This distinguishes it from all other double asteroids. They also collaborate with worldwide space agencies and institutions that are working to track and better understand these smaller objects of the solar system.

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