NASA’s planetary radar has detected one of the most elongated asteroids to date as it recently flew past Earth on February 3. The asteroid named 2011 AG5 has an estimated length of about 1,600 feet (500 meters) and is about 500 feet (150 meters) wide, making it almost seven times taller than the Qutub Minar. According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, this elongated space rock was imaged by the Goldstone Radar antenna dish of the Deep Space Network (DSN) when the asteroid was about 1.8 million kilometers, or roughly five times the distance between Earth and the Moon.
An asteroid roughly the size of the Empire State Building! Scientists recently tracked one of the most elongated objects ever imaged by planetary radar and revealed its unique dimensions: 1,600 ft (500 meters) long and about 500 ft (150 meters) wide. https://t.co/DqhBSNTtzi pic.twitter.com/9x9gM7Qgpq
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) February 17, 2023
“Of the 1,040 near-Earth objects observed by planetary radar to date, this is one of the most elongated we’ve seen,” Lance Benner, principal scientist at JPL who helped lead the observation said in an official statement. This asteroid was discovered in 2011 but this was the first time astronomers got a chance to have a close look at it.
What else did the experts find?
Apart from its dimensions, scientists confirmed that the asteroid has a large cavity in one of its hemispheres along with subtle dark and light regions. According to the scientists, this asteroid would appear as a dark charcoal to the human eye. In addition to this, they also found that it has a slow rotation rate and the rotation takes full nine hours.
Interestingly, one of the JPL scientists said that follow-up analysis of the asteroid initially suggested a small chance of impact in the future, although it was not known exactly when. “Continued observations of this object ruled out any chance of impact, and these new ranging measurements by the planetary radar team will further refine exactly where it will be far into the future,” Paul Chodas, the director for NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) said.
Data from the planetary radar says that this asteroid orbits the sun every 621 Earth days and its next closest approach to our planet in 2040. Estimates suggest it will be around 1.1 million kilometers at the time.
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