New images reveal an asteroid that just whizzed by Earth has an unexpected companion

by | Jul 6, 2024 | Science

Sign up for CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. Explore the universe with news on fascinating discoveries, scientific advancements and more.When NASA scientists recently tracked the orbits of two space rocks as they made close approaches of Earth, they discovered a surprise: One of the asteroids has a little moon.Astronomers regularly track the trajectories of asteroids to ensure that none of them are on a potential collision course with our planet.While neither of the recent asteroids whizzed by at a concerning distance, the space rocks can yield valuable information that NASA uses to prepare for any potential future collision scenarios.Asteroids, which are remnants left over from the formation of the solar system, are also of interest because capturing details about their size, orbit and composition can reveal insights about our corner of the cosmos.Astronomers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, located in Pasadena, California, used something called planetary radar through the Deep Space Network to track and take images of the asteroids.The Deep Space Network is a system of radio antennae on Earth that helps the agency communicate with spacecraft exploring our solar system and releases radio waves to act as radar across space.Spotting a tiny moonThe first space rock, asteroid 2011 UL21, passed by Earth on June 27 at a distance of 4.1 million miles (6.6 million kilometers), or 17 times the distance between Earth and the moon. Researchers first discovered the asteroid in 2011 using the Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson, Arizona. But since the space rock was first spotted, its June flyby of Earth has been the closest it has swung by our planet that radar has imaged.Astronomers transmitted radio waves from the Goldstone Solar System Radar’s 230-foot-wide (70-meter-wide) satellite dish, near Barstow, California, to the space rock. The waves reflected off the asteroid and traveled back to the n …

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[mwai_chat context=”Let’s have a discussion about this article:nnSign up for CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. Explore the universe with news on fascinating discoveries, scientific advancements and more.When NASA scientists recently tracked the orbits of two space rocks as they made close approaches of Earth, they discovered a surprise: One of the asteroids has a little moon.Astronomers regularly track the trajectories of asteroids to ensure that none of them are on a potential collision course with our planet.While neither of the recent asteroids whizzed by at a concerning distance, the space rocks can yield valuable information that NASA uses to prepare for any potential future collision scenarios.Asteroids, which are remnants left over from the formation of the solar system, are also of interest because capturing details about their size, orbit and composition can reveal insights about our corner of the cosmos.Astronomers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, located in Pasadena, California, used something called planetary radar through the Deep Space Network to track and take images of the asteroids.The Deep Space Network is a system of radio antennae on Earth that helps the agency communicate with spacecraft exploring our solar system and releases radio waves to act as radar across space.Spotting a tiny moonThe first space rock, asteroid 2011 UL21, passed by Earth on June 27 at a distance of 4.1 million miles (6.6 million kilometers), or 17 times the distance between Earth and the moon. Researchers first discovered the asteroid in 2011 using the Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson, Arizona. But since the space rock was first spotted, its June flyby of Earth has been the closest it has swung by our planet that radar has imaged.Astronomers transmitted radio waves from the Goldstone Solar System Radar’s 230-foot-wide (70-meter-wide) satellite dish, near Barstow, California, to the space rock. The waves reflected off the asteroid and traveled back to the n …nnDiscussion:nn” ai_name=”RocketNews AI: ” start_sentence=”Can I tell you more about this article?” text_input_placeholder=”Type ‘Yes'”]
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