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Asteroid bigger than the Empire State Building has its own miniature satellite 


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Asteroid MOONS Earth: Space rock bigger than the Empire State Building that zipped past our planet last week has its own miniature satellite

  • The bigger of the two discovered space rocks has a diameter of over 1,470 feet 
  • The smaller asteroid is in a 49 day orbit of its parent and has a 230ft diameter
  • The pair flew past the Earth about three million miles away on February 3, 2020
  • It was confirmed as a binary system by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico 

A massive asteroid bigger than the Empire State Building that zipped past the Earth at 56,000 miles per hour last week has its own tiny moon.

The binary system of space rocks was discovered by radar images from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and is called 2020 BX12. 

The bigger of the pair has a diameter of more than 1,470 feet which puts it in the ‘potentially hazardous’ to Earth list of stellar objects kept by NASA.

It’s not likely to hit us anytime soon though, it flew nearly three million miles from the Earth on February 3 – that’s 11 times further from us than the Moon is.

The smaller asteroid is just 230 feet in diameter and orbits its parent like a tiny moon about once every 49 hours, astronomers say.

Radar images of binary near-Earth asteroid 2020 BX12. The smaller object appears to be much brighter and is in a 49 hour orbit of the bigger rock

Radar images of binary near-Earth asteroid 2020 BX12. The smaller object appears to be much brighter and is in a 49 hour orbit of the bigger rock

As the duo moved away from the Earth astronomers spotted the odd bright spot orbiting the main rock and found it was a second asteroid – albeit much smaller. 

The smaller asteroid orbits about 1,118 feet from the parent rock.

‘The movement of the satellite between the two observations, which were made ~23 hours apart, suggests a mutual orbital period of 45-50 hours and would be consistent with a tidally locked satellite.’

According to NASA it isn’t unusual for an asteroid to have a moon but it is rare. About 60 of the 16.000 known near-Earth asteroids have at least one moon. 

This binary object was the first discovery by the Arecibo Observatory after it came back online after a month of being closed due to Earthquakes hit Puerto Rico. 

The rock was originally spotted by astronomers using at telescope on Mauna Loa in Hawaii on January 27, but it wasn’t confirmed as binary until February by Arecibo.

The astronomers believe it is tidally locked with its companion – just like the Moon is with Earth – meaning one side always faces the larger body.

This is an artists impression of another binary asteroid system known as Ida Dactyl - the main rock is called Ida and the tiny moon is known as Dactyl

This is an artists impression of another binary asteroid system known as Ida Dactyl – the main rock is called Ida and the tiny moon is known as Dactyl

Due to the size of space and relatively tiny size of asteroids finding them is incredibly difficult, NASA says.

As binary asteroids are rare, astronomers don’t know very much about them including how they form or where the moon comes from. 

Some suggest they may form as a result of two asteroids forming together like binary stars, others could form by capturing smaller objects in a fly-by. 

BX12 is a member of the Apollo group of near-Earth asteroids, flying inside Earth’s orbit and out beyond Mars. 

It will pass Mars in June but won’t be back past Earth until 2022 – by then it will be even further way – it’s next close approach won’t be until after 2100.

IS EARTH DUE FOR A MAJOR ASTEROID IMPACT?

Researchers have discovered most of the asteroids that are about a kilometers in size, but are now on the hunt for those that are about 140m – as they could cause catastrophic damage.

Although nobody knows when the next big impact will occur, scientists have found themselves under pressure to predict – and intercept – its arrival.

Artist's impression pictured 

Artist’s impression pictured 

‘Sooner or later we will get… a minor or major impact,’ said Rolf Densing, who heads the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt

It may not happen in our lifetime, he said, but ‘the risk that Earth will get hit in a devastating event one day is very high.’

‘For now, there is little we can do.’ 

Source: AFP 



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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