Three of the World's Largest Radio Telescopes Discover Rare Double Asteroid

Mindy Sparks
July 16, 2018

Observations made by using three of the world's largest radio telescopes revealed that an asteroid discovered past year is actually two asteroids of about 900 meters in size and orbiting each other.

NASA said in a statement on July 12 that the new observation obtained between June 21 and 26 shows that two objects, each in size greater than 900, every 20 to 24 hours around each other Wander around.

Astronomers with the Morocco Oukaimeden Sky Survey (MOSS) discovered the near-Earth asteroid 2017 YE5 on December 21, 2017.

On June 21, the closest Earth's closest planet, Earth's nearest planet, was about 16 times the size of Earth's or Earth's equivalent of about 6 million kilometers from Earth, in 2017, which moved to Earth's nearest planet.

NASA made the asteroid "the most rare and unique minor planet in the Solar system, equilibrium of binary neas, whose halves are approximately equal to each other". Eventually, the two objects rotated to expose a distinct gap between them.

Once the true nature of the asteroid (s) was known, astronomers from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico began to alert other observatories. They then teamed up with researchers at Green Bank to run a series of tests in which Arecibo would send the initial signal and Green Bank would return it. Both Goldstone and Arecibo had independently confirmed the asteroid's binary nature by June 26.

Contact binaries - where two similarly sized objects actually touch each other - are thought to make up another 15 percent of near-Earth asteroids larger than 650 feet (200 meters) in size.

The new observations of 2017 YE5 showed another eye-catching result: The pair aren't identical twins.

According to NASA, there are about 4,700 potentially hazardous asteroids. This close approach - the closest YE5 has been in 170 years - gave us an unprecedented look at the small asteroid and allowed us to discover it isn't one asteroid at all: It's two. Most of the binary systems that have been witnessed consist of two objects of wildly different sizes.

YE5 is the fourth equal mass binary near-Earth asteroid detected so far.

First to suggest the prospect is NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar, which observed two distinct lobes.

In addition, each object was found to reflect the radar signal differently pointing to a potential difference in either surface compositions or roughness, or even densities.

The Arecibo, Goldstone and USRA planetary radar projects are funded through NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program (, within the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), which manages the Agency's Planetary Defense Program. GBO is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under a cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. This distinguishes it from all other double asteroids.

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