Radar images of a Christmas Eve asteroid—an early gift for astronomers

December 28, 2015 by Dc Agle
These images of an asteroid 3,600 feet (1,100 meters) long were taken on Dec. 17 (left) and Dec. 22 by scientists using NASA's giant Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California. This asteroid will safely fly past Earth on Dec. 24, at a distance of 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR

Asteroid 2003 SD220 safely flew past Earth on Dec. 24 at a distance of 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers). Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have generated the highest-resolution images to date of this asteroid using the Deep Space Network's 230-foot (70-meter) antenna at Goldstone, California. The radar images were acquired between Dec. 17 and Dec. 22, when the distance to this near-Earth object (NEO) was narrowing from 7.3 million miles (12 million kilometers) to almost the flyby distance.

"The radar images data suggest that asteroid 2003 SD220 is highly elongated and at least 3,600 feet [1,100 meters] in length," said Lance Benner of JPL, who leads NASA's asteroid radar research program. "The data acquired during this pass of the asteroid will help us plan for during its upcoming closer approach in 2018."

Three years from now, the asteroid will safely fly past Earth again, but even closer, at a of 1.8 million miles (2.8 million kilometers). The 2018 flyby will be the closest the asteroid will get to Earth until 2070, when it is expected to safely fly past our planet at a distance of about 1.7 million miles (2.7 million kilometers).

"There is no cause for concern over the upcoming flyby of 2003 SD220 this Christmas Eve," said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for NEO Studies at JPL. "The closest this object will come to Santa and his eight tiny reindeer is about 28 times the distance between Earth and the moon."

Radar has been used to observe hundreds of asteroids. When these primitive denizens of the solar system pass relatively close to Earth, radar is a powerful technique for studying their sizes, shapes, rotation, surface features and roughness, and for improving the calculation of their orbits.

JPL hosts the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies for NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program within the agency's Science Mission Directorate.

Explore further: NASA radar images asteroid 2007 PA8

More information: More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects can be found at:
neo.jpl.nasa.gov
www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch

Related Stories

NASA radar images asteroid 2007 PA8

November 6, 2012

(Phys.org)—Scientists working with NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., have obtained several radar images depicting near-Earth asteroid 2007 PA8. The images were generated from ...

Asteroid's distant 'flyby' Thursday

May 14, 2015

An asteroid, designated 1999 FN53, will safely pass more than 26 times the distance of Earth to the moon on May 14. To put it another way, at its closest point, the asteroid will get no closer than 6.3 million miles away ...

Earth flyby of 'space peanut' captured in new video

July 31, 2015

NASA scientists have used two giant, Earth-based radio telescopes to bounce radar signals off a passing asteroid and produce images of the peanut-shaped body as it approached close to Earth this past weekend.

Halloween asteroid a treat for radar astronomers

October 22, 2015

NASA scientists are tracking the upcoming Halloween flyby of asteroid 2015 TB145 with several optical observatories and the radar capabilities of the agency's Deep Space Network at Goldstone, California. The asteroid will ...

Asteroid looks even better second time around

December 18, 2015

Asteroid 1998 WT24 safely flew past Earth on Dec. 11 at a distance of about 2.6 million miles (4.2 million kilometers, 11 lunar distances). During its flyby, NASA scientists used the 230-foot (70-meter) DSS-14 antenna at ...

Recommended for you

China unveils 2020 Mars rover concept: report

August 24, 2016

China has unveiled illustrations of a Mars probe and rover it aims to send to the Red Planet at the end of the decade in a mission that faces "unprecedented" challenges, state media said on Wednesday.

Test for damp ground at Mars streaks finds none

August 24, 2016

Seasonal dark streaks on Mars that have become one of the hottest topics in interplanetary research don't hold much water, according to the latest findings from a NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars.

Fossilized rivers suggest warm, wet ancient Mars

August 23, 2016

Extensive systems of fossilised riverbeds have been discovered on an ancient region of the Martian surface, supporting the idea that the now cold and dry Red Planet had a warm and wet climate about 4 billion years ago, according ...

What do aliens look like? The clue is in evolution

August 19, 2016

Speculating about what aliens look like has kept children, film producers and scientists amused for decades. If they exist, will extra terrestrials turn out to look similar to us, or might they take a form beyond our wildest ...

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.