Huge asteroid zipped by Earth has its own moon, Asteroid 2016 AZ8

Huge asteroid zipped by Earth has its own moon

Jan. 9, 2019– Mary Greeley News – The largest asteroid expected to pass by Earth this month has a traveling companion.

Asteroid 2016 AZ8 made its nearest swing by our planet in the 21st century early Monday. As it was approaching, astronomers were able to take a closer look. Radar images of the space rock acquired using the huge Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico show it is a binary system — the main asteroid is orbited by a smaller boulder.

According to Arecibo, the larger asteroid could be 420 meters (1,378 feet) in diameter, nearly as wide as the Pentagon’s headquarters and bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza. The “moon” satellite circling it at a distance of about 400 meters (1,312 feet) is estimated to be around 180 meters (591 feet) wide.

Binary asteroids are not as rare as you might suppose. Studies show that about 15% of the near-Earth asteroid population has a moon. In the geological past, these systems have struck Earth, creating double impact craters such as the twin crater in Jämtland, Sweden. Ultimately, space agencies may need to deflect or destroy an asteroid hurtling toward us. Knowing the properties of binary systems such as 2016 AZ8 could prove crucial to future planetary defense.

Fortunately, there’s no reason to be freaked out because this duo’s visit was actually at a comfortable distance of over 4.3 million km (2.7 million miles). It’s also not expected to come any closer to us until at least the 23rd century, at which point we could be ready to build a cosmic truck stop on its surface.

Mary Greeley News