US space agency NASA said that Monday’s sky will offer another unique event when a giant mountain-sized asteroid will past Earth, making the closest pass by such a massive space rock until 2027. But the scientists have refuted all the fears of danger for the Earth dwellers.
Nearly 1,800 feet (550 meters) wide asteroid, named 2004 BL86, will be passing within 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) of Earth on Monday (January 26). The distance between the massive space rock and our planet is approximately thrice the distance between Earth and the moon.
According to NASA scientists, the flyby offers a rare opportunity to have a good look at a near-Earth asteroid. In this regard, the astronomers have planned to study 2004 BL86 in order to pinpoint its orbit, understand about its surface and also look for its available moons. The main idea is to keep a close watch on the movement of the asteroid with the help of the 1,000-foot (305 m) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and the 230-foot (70 m) dish-shaped Goldstone antenna at Deep Space Network at NASA in California. These radio dishes will beam microwave signals at the fast-moving asteroid that will then bounce off the target rock and return to our planet.
Lance Benner, the principal investigator for the Goldstone observations of the asteroid, said, “For objects that get this close, that are this large, the radar observations are really analogous to a spacecraft flyby in terms of the caliber of the data that we can get.”
Benner is a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The space experts believe the resulting black-and-white images can bring out unprecedented revelations about the asteroids and this giant one in particular.
According to the scientists, the foremost task would be to nail the location of the space rock in space and time in order to better understand the object’s orbit and its future movement.
Benner postulates such an experiment will help in benefiting the commercial companies that are looking forward to carrying a mission and mine asteroids in the future.
Declining possibility of any threat by 2004 BL86 to the Earth for the foreseeable future, Benner said keeping eyes closed on the asteroid would be a good idea.
The scientists are expecting to obtain resolutions as fine as 13 feet (4 m) per pixel. The images of 2004 BL86 at such a resolution could reveal minute details of the space rock.
“It’s expected to be one of the best radar-imaging targets of this calendar year,” Benner said.
The Goldstone antenna will be monitoring the asteroid’s movement for five to six hours most nights between January 27 and February 1. On the other hand, the Arecibo Observatory will be tracking 2004 BL86 on Tuesday night (January 27). Scientists said its radar is not completely steerable and the asteroid will be zipping through the sky at 2 degrees per hour.