Watch the video above: NASA released a series of 20 images of the near-Earth asteroid 2004 BL86 taken on Jan. 26, as the rock made its closest approach to Earth.
TORONTO – As asteroid 2004 BL86 buzzed Earth on Monday, astronomers turned their eyes and telescopes to the sky, hoping to learn more about the rock —; and they did.
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NASA’s 70-metre Deep Space Network antenna in California captured the first radar images, and found that BL86 —; which is about 325 metres across —; has a small companion: a moon that is just 70 metres across.
It’s not a complete surprise that an asteroid of this size has a moon. NASA says that about 16 per cent of asteroids that are 200 metres or larger are binary, meaning that they have a smaller moon orbiting it.
NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program monitors and studies potentially hazardous asteroids. In 2016, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission will launch to one of the most potentially hazardous asteroids currently known, Bennu. Aboard the mission will be a Canadian-built laser. The ambitious mission will collect a sample of the asteroid and return it to Earth in 2023.
Asteroid 2004 BL86 made its closest pass at 11:19 a.m. EST on Monday, coming 1.2 million kilometres from Earth.