Asteroid That Flew Past Earth Today Has Moon

Researchers working with NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, have issued the first radar pictures of asteroid 2004 BL86. The pictures show the asteroid, which made its nearby approach today (Jan. 26, 2015) at 8:19 a.m. PST (11:19 a.m. EST) at a distance of about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometres, or 3.1 times the distance from Earth to the moon), has its own small moon.

The 20 singular images used in the movie were produced from data collected at Goldstone on Jan. 26, 2015. They show the primary body is around 1,100 feet (325 meters) across and has a small moon about 230 feet (70 meters) across. In the near-Earth populace, about 16 percent of asteroids that are about 655 feet (200 meters) or larger are a binary (the primary asteroid with a smaller asteroid moon orbiting it) or even triple systems (two moons). The resolution on the radar pictures is 13 feet (4 meters) per pixel.

The course of asteroid 2004 BL86 is well understood. Monday's flyby was the closest approach the asteroid will make to Earth for at least the next two centuries. It is also the closest a recognized asteroid this size will come to Earth until asteroid 1999 AN10 flies past our planet in 2027.

Asteroid 2004 BL86 was found on Jan. 30, 2004, by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) study in White Sands, New Mexico.

Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Asteroid 2004 BL86

Space Exploration

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