Asteroid with its own moon will pass by Earth this weekend

James Marshall
May 24, 2019

The European Space Agency (ESA) said in a statement: "The goal is to put observatories and telescopes to the test, to become aware of what kind of information can be collected on short notice in case of a future close approach of a possibly threatening asteroid".

Binary asteroid system 1999 KW4, a almost mile-wide walnut-shaped chunk of space rock with its own moon, will pass by Earth on Friday, CNet reports Its closest approach is projected to be 3,219,955 miles from Earth, and while this is a healthy distance from us, it still falls within the range of 20 lunar distances-or just over 4.6 million miles-to be considered "potentially hazardous".

1999 KW4 is "slightly squashed at the poles and with a mountain ridge around the equator, which runs all the way around the asteroid". The second is a smaller object known as the asteroid's "moon".

It's called a bianary system, because there are two asteroids that are gravitationally bound together.

Even so, astronomers will be watching the flyby using a combination of Earth- and space-based telescopes - part of an ongoing effort to improve our planetary defenses against catastrophic asteroid strikes of the sort seen in a disturbing simulation conducted recently in Washington.

The larger one is just under a mile in diameter and its companion asteroid "moon" is about a third of that size.It was first discovered in 1999 by scientists with the LINEAR project in New Mexico.

The asteroid orbits the sun roughly approximately every 186 days on an elliptical path. They do this by sending radio waves at the asteroid and measuring the waves that bounce off.

It will look like a slow-moving star.

The flyby will be the second-closest approach 1999 KW4 has made in the past two decades and the closest it will come to Earth until 2036, according to CNET.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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