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Saturday, April 13, 2024

NASA shares images of the large asteroid that passed by Earth

NASA's Deep Space Network planetary radar recently unveiled the secrets of a notable celestial visitor, asteroid 2008 OS7.

NASA’s Deep Space Network planetary radar recently unveiled the secrets of a notable celestial visitor, asteroid 2008 OS7. This “stadium-sized” space rock, passing by Earth on February 2, offered scientists a rare opportunity to gather comprehensive data, shedding light on its characteristics and behavior. 

Safe Passage

Despite its sizable dimensions, asteroid 2008 OS7 posed no risk of impact during its recent flyby. Orbiting at a safe distance of 1.8 million miles (2.9 million km) from Earth, approximately 7 ½ times the Earth-Moon distance, it assured a tranquil passage. This safe distance allowed scientists to closely observe the asteroid without any concerns of imminent danger.

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Capturing Intricate Details 

Seizing the rare opportunity presented by the asteroid’s close approach, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory utilized the powerful capabilities of the Deep Space Network’s Barstow facility. The 230-foot (70-meter) Goldstone Solar System Radar antenna dish captured detailed images, providing scientists with an unprecedented view of asteroid 2008 OS7. This marked the first time such intricate data could be gathered, thanks to the advanced technology at JPL’s disposal.

Unveiling the Asteroid’s Characteristics

The collected data allowed JPL scientists to unravel various aspects of asteroid 2008 OS7. Detailed assessments revealed its size, spin, shape, and surface features. Reflecting light measurements indicated a width ranging from 500 to 650 feet (150 to 200 meters), while its leisurely rotation completed one full turn in approximately 29 ½ hours. These insights provided valuable clues about the asteroid’s composition and structure, enhancing our understanding of similar celestial bodies.

Enhancing Orbital Calculations

NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) leveraged the newfound distance measurements to refine calculations concerning the asteroid’s orbital path around the Sun. By incorporating these precise data points, scientists can better predict the future movements of asteroid 2008 OS7, mitigating any potential risks associated with its trajectory. This proactive approach highlights NASA’s dedication to planetary defense and the safety of our planet.

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Classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid due to its proximity and size, 2008 OS7 served as a reminder of the importance of identifying and tracking near-Earth objects. CNEOS, managed by JPL, remains vigilant in its mission to detect objects larger than 460 feet (140 meters) that could pose a threat in the event of an impact. Through continuous monitoring and research, NASA strives to safeguard our planet from the potential consequences of celestial collisions.