NASA Captures Images Of Asteroid That Resembles Dungeons And Dragons Dice

Posted: Feb 13 2017, 6:58am CST | by , Updated: Feb 13 2017, 7:13am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

NASA Captures Images of Asteroid that Resembles Dungeons and Dragons Dice
The 25 images of asteroid 2017 BQ6 that made a close approach towards Earth on February 6. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR
 

The asteroid designated 2017 BQ6 safely flew past Earth on Feb. 6

The high-resolution radar images of asteroid 2017 BQ6 that safely flew passed Earth on February 6 have been processed and provide new insight into the size and structure of the cosmic object. 

The 25 composite images are generated using NASA’s 70-meter antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California and reveal an irregular, angular shape asteroid bearing a resemblance to role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons dice. The asteroid is estimated to be 200 meters or 660 feet in size and rotates once about every three hours. These radar images have spatial resolution as fine as 12 feet per pixel.

“The radar images show relatively sharp corners, flat regions, concavities, and small bright spots that may be boulders,” said Lance Benner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who leads the agency’s asteroid radar research program. “Asteroid 2017 BQ6 reminds me of the dice used when playing Dungeons and Dragons. It is certainly more angular than most near-Earth asteroids imaged by radar.”

The images were taken as the asteroid approached close to the Earth on Feb. 6 at 10:36 p.m. PST at 1.6 million miles or 2.5 million kilometers, about 6.6 times the distance between Earth and the moon. Asteroid 2017 BQ6 was originally discovered on Jan. 26 by a telescope of the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey in White Sands, New Mexico.

NASA uses both ground and space-based telescopes to detect asteroids and comets lurking in the outskirts of universe. To obtain their high resolution images, the powerful radar technique has been utilized.

Radar studies an object's size, shape, rotation, surface features in a remarkable detail and also helps determine their orbital paths. For instance, the powerful Goldstone antenna transmitted high-power microwaves toward an object, in this case, the asteroid. Then, the radio waves that bounced off the object and returned to Earth in the form of the radar echoes enabled scientists to create such detailed images that would be impossible otherwise. 

 

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