A singular “double asteroid” was photographed by a robust telescope because it whizzed by Earth final month at over 43,000 mph.
The asteroid, labeled as 1999 KW4, is made up of two parts — a bigger physique orbited by a smaller one separated by about 1.6 miles. It obtained as shut as three.2 million miles to Earth on Might 25 — about 14 occasions the space from Earth to the Moon, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) stated in a information launch Monday.
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The double asteroid, which has an orbit well-known to scientists, isn’t an impression risk to Earth, ESO officers stated. Scientists with the ESO and the Worldwide Asteroid Warning Community labored collectively to foretell the flyby and make applicable preparations for observing the thing.
The group stated it used its Very Giant Telescope (VLT) to identify the passing asteroid. The VLT was capable of seize pictures sharp sufficient to tell apart the 2 components of the asteroid due to its Spectro-Polarimetric Excessive-contrast Exoplanet Analysis (SPHERE) instrument. SPHERE’s essential goal is to watch exoplanets — planets situated outdoors our Photo voltaic System.
ESO astronomer Olivier Hainaut stated information obtained will assist in evaluating efficient methods to deflect potential asteroids on a collision course with Earth.
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“Within the worst potential case, this data can be important to foretell how an asteroid may work together with the environment and Earth’s floor, permitting us to mitigate injury within the occasion of a collision,” he stated.
The ESO famous that 1999 KW4 is just like a binary asteroid referred to as Didymos and its smaller orbiting companion, Didymoon, which may turn into a risk to Earth within the distant future.