Radar Clicks Asteroid's Pic

Apr 30, 2010
Radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55. Image credit: NASA/Cornell/Arecibo

(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 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to refine the space rock's orbit, allowing scientists to rule out any possibility of an Earth impact for the next 100 years.

The was about 2.3 million kilometers (1.5 million miles) from Earth at the time this image of the radar echo was generated. The ghostly image has a resolution of 7.5 meters (25 feet) per pixel. It reveals 2005 YU55 as a spherical object about 400 meters (1,300 feet) in size.

Not only can the radar provide data on an asteroid's dimensions, but also on its exact location in space. Using Arecibo's high-precision radar astrometry capability, scientists were able to reduce orbit uncertainties for YU55 by 50 percent.

"At one time we had classified 2005 YU55 as a potential threat," said Steve Chesley, a scientist at JPL's Near-Earth Object Program Office. Prior to the Arecibo radar passes on April 19 thru 21, we had eliminated almost all upcoming Earth flybys as possibilities of impact. But there were a few that had a low remaining probability of impact. After incorporating the data from Arecibo, we were able to rule impacts out entirely for the next 100 years."

With more observations in the coming years, scientists may be able to accurately plot 2005 YU55's orbit even further out.

detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to 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.

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User comments : 4

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danlgarmstrong
not rated yet Apr 30, 2010
Does anyone else feel that a sphere that small is odd? Gravity should not be able to pull something that size into a sphere.
ManelyMan
not rated yet Apr 30, 2010
Hmmm, I think if gravity had pulled it into anything other than a sphere then we would have major problems.
Hungry4info2
not rated yet Apr 30, 2010
I don't think it's odd at all. To me it does not look terribly spherical, kinda irregularly spheroid perhaps. And of course, we only see half a hemisphere.
CouchP
not rated yet Apr 30, 2010
If this was generated by a radar echo, was thesource of the RF coming at roughly an oblique 45 degree angle from 12 o'clock? If it was sent from earth wouldn't the return echo be less in appearance of a crescent moon or wouldn it be more like a full moon?

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