The Monstrous Double Asteroid will Sail Across the Earth Later this Week

Katie Ramirez
May 27, 2019

The asteroid, named the 1999 KW4, consists of a primary space rock, measured at a almost a mile wide, and a companion asteroid that is 0.3 miles wide. The asteroid passed at a speed of 22 km per second near the Earth at 02:05 GMT.

Though it's classified as 'potentially hazardous, ' 1999 KW4 is expected to breeze by safely; at its closest, the object will be within 3,216,271 miles from Earth - or 13.5 times the distance to the moon.

The asteroid also has a.3-mile-wide "companion" asteroid, which experts are calling an "asteroid moon" in orbit.

In fact, this is the fourth approach the binary asteroids have made toward Earth since they were discovered in 1999, and not the closest.

The main asteroid is about a mile wide, and looks a bit like a spinning top thanks to a ridge that wraps around the rock's equator.

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"According to EarthSky.org, amateur astronomers may be able to see the asteroid if they use a telescope that's 8" in diameter or larger.

The upcoming approach will provide even more insight into its behavior, which will prove useful for upcoming missions supported by NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office that aim to study similar systems.

During its closest approach the asteroid will have more favorable viewing conditions in the southern hemisphere before it potentially becomes more visible in the northern by May 27. NASA predicts the imposing space rock will shoot past Earth on the morning of Thursday, May 30. The next approach that the 1999 KW4 will make with the Earth will be in 2036, so keep your stargazing equipment ready for the weekend. "That's what makes it a very interesting target".

The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, home to the world's largest radio telescope, is expected to take observations during the asteroid's flyby that will improve the model of 1999 KW4's shape, surface properties and measure the rotation period of the binary and of the primary and secondary.

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