Feeds

NASA snaps revealing pix of visiting near-Earth asteroid

Imminent end of civilization highly unlikely

New hybrid storage solutions

Photos In a marvelously precise bit of radar aiming, NASA astro-boffins captured a set of images of a near-Earth asteroid as it passed by our lonely planet late last month at distances of between 9 and 10 million kilometers (5.6 and 6.2 million miles).

The images, released on Monday, show asteroid 2007 PA8 to be what NASA describes as "an elongated, irregularly shaped object ... with ridges and perhaps craters." NASA's data also indicates that the chunk of space rock is slowly rotating "roughly once every three to four days."

The radar images were captured by a 70m antenna in Goldstone, California, one of three such installations that make up NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN), the other two being the Madrid Deep Space Communications Complex (MDSCC) in Spain and the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) in Australia.

Goldstone didn't require the help of those two other antennas, positioned about 120 degrees of the Earth's diameter apart to provide overlapping coverage of deep space. The California antenna captured its images of 207 PA8 all by its lonesome.

Asteroid 2007 PA8 came even closer to Earth after its photo shoot. As of 8:42 Pacific Time on Monday, NASA says, it was 6.5 million kilometers (4 million miles) away – that's about 17 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

Asteroid 2007 PA8

In NASA's images, Asteroid 2007 PA8 rotates to show us its good side – your pick as to which one that might be

Fear not, however. According to NASA, this flyby is the closest that 2007 PA8 will come near Earth for at least the next 200 years. Should it threaten us after that, odds are that asteroid-deflection technology will have advanced beyond shooting paintballs at intruders, as was recently suggested by an MIT grad student as the winning entry in the United Nation's Move An Asteroid 2012 Competition.

Astro-boffins are getting better at tracking and spotting near-Earth asteroids. Just this June, for example, Australian astronomers picked up 2012 LZ1, which passed within 5.3 million kilometers (3.3 million miles). That asteroid, however, is a mere 500 meters in diameter. Asteroid 2007 PA8, on the other hand, is a noticeably chubbier 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) wide.

By comparison, the asteroid that is thought to have struck what's now the Yucatán peninsula around 65 million years ago, putting an end to the dinosaurs' rule over the Earth, is alternately thought to have had a diameter of 4 to 6 kilometers (2.5 to 3.7 miles), 10 kilometers (6 miles), or "about the size of the Isle of Wight."

Some scientists, however, believe the dino-eraser actually was about 40 kilometers (25 miles) wide, and struck not Yucatán, but instead the appropriately named Shiva basin off India's western coast.

That comparison aside, being struck by any sizeable chunk of space rock – even 2007 PA8's comparatively paltry 1.6 kilometer girth – would, of course, thoroughly ruin your day. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Square Kilometre Array reveals its 1.6TB-a-day storage and network rigs
Boolardy Engineering Test Array - aka BETA - is about to come out of Beta
LOHAN invites ENTIRE REG READERSHIP to New Mexico shindig
Well, those of you who back our Kickstarter tin-rattling...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.