Fast-rotating asteroid winks for astronomer's camera

April 15, 2011 By DC Agle
Asteroid 2011 GP59 as imaged on the night of April 11, 2011 by amateur astronomer Nick James of Chelmsford, Essex, England. At the time, the asteroid was approximately 3,356,000 kilometers (2,081,000 mile) distant. Credit: Nick James

(PhysOrg.com) -- Video imaging of newly discovered asteroid 2011 GP59 shows the object appearing to blink on and off about once every four minutes.

Amateur astronomers, including Nick James of Chelmsford, Essex, England, have captured video of the interesting object. James generated this video of GP59 on the night of Monday, April 11. The video, captured with an 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, is a compilation of 137 individual frames, each requiring 30 seconds of exposure. At the time, the asteroid was approximately 3,356,000 kilometers (2,081,000 mile) distant. Since then, the has become something of a darling of the amateur astronomy community, with many videos available.

The video will load shortly

"Usually, when we see an asteroid strobe on and off like that, it means that the body is elongated and we are viewing it broadside along its long axis first, and then on its narrow end as it rotates ," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "GP59 is approximately 50 meters [240 feet] long, and we think its period of rotation is about seven-and-a-half minutes. This makes the object's brightness change every four minutes or so."

The video will load shortly

2011 GP59 was discovered the night of April 8/9 by astronomers with the Observatorio Astronomico de Mallorca in Andalusia, Spain. It will make its closest approach to Earth on April 15 at 19:09 UTC (12:09 p.m. PDT) at a distance just beyond the moon's orbit - about 533,000 kilometers (331,000 miles).

"Although newly discovered, the near-term orbital location of 2011 GP59 can be accurately plotted," said Yeomans. "There is no possibility of the small space rock entering Earth's atmosphere during this pass or for the foreseeable future."

detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

Explore further: Asteroid to Make Rare Close Flyby of Earth

Related Stories

Asteroid to Make Rare Close Flyby of Earth

January 24, 2008

Scientists are monitoring the orbit of asteroid 2007 TU24. The asteroid, believed to be between 150 meters (500 feet) and 610 meters (2,000 feet) in size, is expected to fly past Earth on Jan. 29, with its closest distance ...

Wisconsin Fireball Caught On Tape

April 16, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A rooftop webcam at the University of Wisconsin-Madison captured the final seconds of a fireball's Wednesday, April 14 descent into the atmosphere. A fireball is a meteor, or "shooting star," that emits a ...

Radar Clicks Asteroid's Pic

April 30, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Near-Earth asteroid 2005 YU55 was "imaged" by the Arecibo Radar Telescope in Puerto Rico on April 19. Data collected during Arecibo's observation of 2005 YU55 allowed the Near-Earth Object Program Office ...

Small Near-Earth Object Probably a Rocket Part

May 28, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists at NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have determined that a small object that safely passed Earth on May 21 is more than likely an ...

Small asteroid to pass within Earth-Moon system Tuesday

October 11, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A small asteroid will fly past Earth early Tuesday within the Earth-moon system. The asteroid, 2010 TD54, will have its closest approach to Earth's surface at an altitude of about 45,000 kilometers (27,960 ...

Recommended for you

NASA to map the surface of an asteroid

July 25, 2016

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will launch September 2016 and travel to a near-Earth asteroid known as Bennu to harvest a sample of surface material and return it to Earth for study. The science team will be looking for something ...

Digging deeper into Mars

July 25, 2016

Water is the key to life on Earth. Scientists continue to unravel the mystery of life on Mars by investigating evidence of water in the planet's soil. Previous observations of soil observed along crater slopes on Mars showed ...

A star's birth holds early clues to life potential

July 25, 2016

Our solar system began as a cloud of gas and dust. Over time, gravity slowly pulled these bits together into the Sun and planets we recognize today. While not every system is friendly to life, astronomers want to piece together ...

Seven new embedded clusters detected in the Galactic halo

July 25, 2016

(Phys.org)—A team of Brazilian astronomers, led by Denilso Camargo of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, has discovered seven new embedded clusters located unusually far away from the Milky Way's ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.