NASA Discovers Rare "Equal Mass" Double Asteroids Orbiting Each Other

Dual Asteroids

Dual Asteroids

That's the realization that struck astronomers in June after they set out to study a near-Earth asteroid called 2017 YE5, which NASA announced July 12, is actually two asteroids, a pair of objects orbiting each other.

According to NASA Morocco's Oukaimeden Sky Survey spotted the Near-Earth asteroid, YE5 on December 21, 2017 and provided the information to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA.

Scientists say that in June of this year an asteroid closer to Earth, approaching her at a distance of six million kilometers.

First observations that inferred the system could be in fact binary were made by NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar, with further analysis of available new data revealing that the system had high chances of being binary. The observations revealed two distinct lobes, but the asteroid's orientation was such that scientists could not see if the two bodies were separate or joined.

Scientists at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico had already planned to observe 2017 YE5, and they were alerted by their colleagues at Goldstone of the asteroid's unique properties. 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. By June 26, both Goldstone and Arecibo had independently confirmed the asteroid's binary nature, NASA said. The combined radar and optical observations of YE5 may allow researchers to estimate the densities of the two objects, giving researchers a better understanding of their composition, internal structure and how they formed. This may indicate that the binary asteroid was actually originally two separate objects that were drawn into a mutual orbit when in close proximity.

The new observations of 2017 YE5 showed another eye-catching result: The pair aren't identical twins. Most binary asteroids are uneven, with one half dwarfing the other.

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According to NASA, there are about 4,700 potentially hazardous asteroids. One half of the binary looks to be much darker than the other, suggesting that they're made of different things, or perhaps have extremely different textures.

An asteroid first discovered in December of previous year has now been revealed to be a unique system featuring two objects locked in a dance around their own binary orbit.

It is only the fourth case of "equal mass" "near-Earth asteroid ever detected".

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.

Patrick Taylor of the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, led the bi-static radar observations with GBO, home of the Green Bank Telescope (GBT), the world's largest fully steerable radio telescope. The observations show that the asteroid consists of two separate objects in orbit around each other.

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