Radar Shows Images of Near-Earth Asteroid, the Beautiful ‘Beast’
By Julie S | Jun 15, 2014 04:51 PM EDT
NASA's radar successfully captured breathtaking views of the near-Earth asteroid 2014 HQ124 and nicknamed the cosmic entity as "The Beast."
In June 8, the near-Earth asteroid made a brush with Earth at a very close distance of 3.25 lunar distances, or approximately 370 meters. The distance was safe yet dangerously too close considering the asteroid's speed at 31,000 mph that could produce an impact of 2,000 megatons of TNT. If ever the asteroid fell in Earth, it could create a 5-kilometer impact crater. As the asteroid passed by our planet, astronomers tracked it to capture some incredible pictures.
Scientists from the U.S. space agency used the 70-meter Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., and the 305-meter radio telescope based in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Later on, they also used the 34-meter antenna in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California to capture the images of the beautiful beast.
"By itself, the Goldstone antenna can obtain images that show features as small as the width of a traffic lane on the highway," said Lance Benner, researcher from NASA JPL, in a news release. "With Arecibo now able to receive our highest-resolution Goldstone signals, we can create a single system that improves the overall quality of the images."
The Beast is considered as a binary asteroid. It is characterized with an elongated shape that resembles a peanut. Binary asteroids are created when two smaller asteroids are connected.
The researchers created a collage of the Beast using 21 radar images showing the asteroid during its closest approach, a distance that was approximately 776,000 miles. Each frame accounts for 10 minutes of observation time.
The surface structure of the asteroid was clearly seen in the pictures. The images also showed that the Beast had some depression at its larger lobe.
NASA scientists classified the near-Earth asteroid as a potentially hazardous asteroid. But, the HQ124 did not pose any damage or threat to Earth even in its future approaches. Astronomers estimated that it would approach Earth again on November 2017.