1600-foot, oddly shaped asteroid as big as Empire State Building tracked down by NASA

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has captured a detailed view of an elongated asteroid over a couple of days. Here's what has been revealed.

| Updated on: Feb 19 2023, 10:04 IST
Joy! NASA’s asteroid mission achieved mission impossible, created history
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1/6 Nasa’s DART was the first demonstration of the “kinetic impactor” method of asteroid mitigation. This was the first time, when humans altered the path of a celestial body purposefully. (AFP)
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2/6 NASA chief Bill Nelson said, “All of us have a responsibility to protect our home planet. After all, it’s the only one we have. This mission shows that NASA is trying to be ready for whatever the universe throws at us.” He added that the US agency has proven that it can defend the planet. (via REUTERS)
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3/6 Before the crash, asteroid Dimorphous took about 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit the larger asteroid Didymos, whereas, post crash, it took only 11 hours and 23 minutes to orbit the larger asteroid. (via REUTERS)
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4/6 DART impact has shortened the orbit by 32 minutes. None of these space rocks - Dimorphous as well as Didymos pose any threat to our planet, hence it was an ideal target to carry out the DART mission. At the time of collision, the DART spacecraft was traveling at 14000 (22,530-kmph) miles per hour. (via REUTERS)
5/6 The DART team is currently measuring how efficiently the spacecraft transferred its momentum to the asteroid. “DART has given us some fascinating data about both asteroid properties and the effectiveness of a kinetic impactor as a planetary defense technology. The DART team is continuing to work on this rich dataset to fully understand this first planetary defense test of asteroid deflection,” said Nancy Chabot, the DART coordination lead at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in a press statement. (via REUTERS)
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6/6 Didymos, the larger asteroid of the binary pair is about a half mile (780 meters or 2559 feet) in diameter. The moonlet, Dimorphos, is about 525 feet (160 meters) in diameter. (via REUTERS)
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NASA observed an asteroid which was discovered in 2011 and is about 1600 feet long and about 500 feet wide. (NASA/JPL)

NASA and other space agencies keep an active eye on asteroids. Now, NASA has found one of the most elongated asteroids amongst the 1040 near-Earth objects observed by planetary radar to date. February 3 witnessed the passage of a sizable asteroid that was over three times longer than its width and safely flew past Earth at a distance of around 1.1 million miles, which is slightly under five times the distance between the Moon and our planet. Despite the fact that there was no possibility of the asteroid, named 2011 AG5, colliding with Earth, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory kept a close eye on it, collecting precious data to determine its size, surface features, rotational speed, and, significantly, its shape.

NASA says that this close approach provided the first opportunity to take a detailed look at the asteroid which is as big as the Empire State Building. The asteroid discovered in 2011 is about 1600 feet long and about 500 feet wide. The study of the asteroid took place from January 29 to February 4, 2023 which shared several other details such as asteroid 2011 AG5 showcases a large, broad concavity in one of the asteroid's two hemispheres, along with faint areas of both darker and lighter shades. This suggests the existence of small, surface-level attributes measuring a few dozen meters in diameter.

In terms of appearance, it would seem as dark as charcoal to the naked eye. Further observations confirmed that 2011 AG5 rotates slowly, completing a full revolution every nine hours. The asteroid 2011 AG5 has an orbit around the Sun that takes around 621 days to complete, and it won't come close to Earth until 2040. At that time, it will pass by Earth at a safe distance of roughly 670,000 miles or 1.1 million kilometres, which is almost three times the distance between the Earth and the Moon. Know that the average distance between Earth and the moon is about 239,000 miles.

Tech behind the asteroid observation

The powerful 230-foot (70-meter) Goldstone Solar System Radar antenna dish at the Deep Space Network's facility near Barstow, California, revealed the dimensions and solar orbit of this elongated asteroid.

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First Published Date: 19 Feb, 10:04 IST