A team of NASA scientists has captured amazing radar images of a huge, mile-wide asteroid as it drifted silently millions of miles from Earth — its closest approach to our planet for the next 200 years.
Astronomers with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., used the agency’s Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, Calif. to capture three new radar views of asteroid 2007 PA8 between Oct. 28 and 30. By the end of the cosmic photo session, the asteroid was about 5.6 million miles (9 million kilometers) from Earth.
As of Monday (Nov. 5), the asteroid was about 4 million miles (6.5 million km) from our planet. That is about 17 times the distance between the Earth and moon.
“The radar images of asteroid 2007 PA8 indicate that it is an elongated, irregularly shaped object approximately one mile (1.6 km) wide, with ridges and perhaps craters,” officials with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., wrote in an image description on Monday. “The data also indicate that 2007 PA8 rotates very slowly, roughly once every three to four days.”
The new images of asteroid 2007 PA8 reveal views of the space rock from above its north pole. The images were generated from multiple radar observations taken by the 230-foot (70 meters) antenna at Goldstone.
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