Feeds

NASA snaps revealing pix of visiting near-Earth asteroid

Imminent end of civilization highly unlikely

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
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.