Until then, the asteroid will pass Earth several times, but none of the encounters will be quite so close.
NASA astronomers paired the space agency’s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California with the National Science Foundation Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia to capture the images of the asteroid. They show the asteroid is highly elongated, with a length of approximately 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) on its long axis.
Due to its unusual shape, researchers have nicknamed 1999 JD6 a “space peanut”. According to scientists the asteroid is a binary formation because images have shown that it is constituted of two lobes.
While radar imaging doesn’t provide the same information as visible-light observations (especially considering how dark many asteroids are) it is valuable for determining an asteroid’s size, shape, rotation, surface features, and for more precise calculations of orbit trajectories far into the future.
NASA observed the asteroid as it came the closest to Earth in more than a century.
Using telescope images from 2001 to 2013, Dr Stephen measured the speed peanut-shaped Itokawa spins and how its spin rate is changing over time.
The radar data were used to create the video above, which shows 1999 JD6 over a course of about seven and a half hours – around the time it takes the asteroid to complete a single rotation.
This week’s flyby was the closest approach the asteroid will make to Earth for about the next 40 years.
Speaking about asteroid, Marshall said, “I’m interested in this particular asteroid because estimates of its size from previous observations – at infrared wavelengths – have not agreed. The radar data will allow us to conclusively resolve the mystery of its size to better understand this interesting little world”, he said.
Meanwhile, this Earth flyby at 4.5 million miles will only be observed again in 2054, July 25th.
Still, it should be noted that 1999 JD6 isn’t really that odd in terms of its appearance.
The official name of the asteroid is now 1999 JD6 as researchers have labeled it in their catalogues.