Rare double asteroid discovered near Earth

15 July, 2018, 20:12 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • This radar image of binary asteroid 2017 YE5 comes from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.                  Arecibo  GBO  NSF  NASA  JPL-Caltech

On Thursday, NASA revealed something much more intriguing: asteroid 2017 YE5 is really two space objects orbiting each other. 2017 YE5 is only the fourth binary near-Earth asteroid ever observed in which the two bodies are roughly the same size, and not touching.

First discovered last December, near-Earth asteroid 2017 YE5 was initially believed to have a binary structure, composed of two lobes joint by a narrowing middle - much like the famous comet C7P, which took Twitter by storm in April, the Inquisitr reported at the time. The fact that the last observation used the time of the closest approach of the asteroid to Earth when he flew a distance of about 6 million kilometers. It's entirely possible that these equal-mass asteroids were originally two separate objects that got sucked into a common orbit when they came across each other while traveling through the solar system.

Then the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia did something incredible: using a technique called "bi-static radar configuration" Arecibo broadcasted a radar signal to detect 2017 YE5, which Green Bank then received.

Findings from three major world observatories confirm that a very rare binary asteroid came within a cosmic whisker of Earth on June 21, 2017.

The new observations obtained between June 21 and 26 confirmed that the two objects revolve around each other every 20 to 24 hours.


Images from the Goldstone and Arecibo observatories show a big difference in the radar reflectivity of the two objects. It's pretty common for large asteroids to link up with smaller ones, with about 15 percent of near-Earth asteroids over 650 feet (200 meters) being binary pairs.

More than 18,000 near-Earth asteroids have been identified, and all of them are thought to be remnants of our solar system's formation. Well, when 2017 YE5 was first spotted, we had no clue about its physical properties.

The Goldstone observations were led by Marina Brozovi?, a radar scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. With this plan, Arecibo transmitted the radar signal, and Green Bank received the return signal.

If this is true, then the space rocks may have originated from different places and were brought together to form a binary asteroid. 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. In addition, NASA values the work of numerous highly skilled amateur astronomers, whose accurate observational data helps improve asteroid orbits after discovery.

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