Researchers have received the first images from asteroid 2004 BL86 obtained from this Monday’s fly-by and it has revealed that the planetary object has its own moon! The asteroid itself measures about 1066 feet in length with its moon about a third of that at approximately 229 feet. Thanks to the radar images taken by NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna located in Goldstone, CA, scientists are able to study 2004 BL86 as well as the size, shape, rotation, and roughness of its moon.
This is something that are seen in about 16 percent of asteroids that pass by Earth and are typical of planetoids 650 feet or greater in length. These large near-Earth objects (or NEOs) are in a binary system, meaning they have another object such as a moon or smaller asteroid orbiting around it. Some even have triple binary systems, meaning they have more than one moon that circle it as the asteroid travels through space.
Studying these asteroids are tremendously important in terms of helping us understand more about our solar system’s evolutionary history as well as for the future of space travel as many hope to eventually use these asteroids as fueling stations, and of course, our planet’s safety.
NASA has found at least 96% of the NEOs that pass close to our planet and out of the 12,165 of these objects, have classified 1,544 of these as Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs). NASA plans on studying the most worrisome of these PHAs next year when they launch a robotic probe at asteroid 101955 Bennu. The mission itself, named OSRIS-Rex, will travel approximately 2-3 years through space and return by 2023 to bring us samples from 101955 Bennu. The samples will then be analyzed in order to assess its biological and chemical makeup as well as the resource potential and impact hazard. Scientists hope that these samples will also reveal the history of 101955 Bennu, which is over 4.5 billion years old, and could give us insights into the solar system’s evolution.