Empire State Asteroid
NASA has gotten a close-up look at a mysteriously-shaped asteroid, once identified as a potential danger for colliding with the Earth, as it whizzed by our planet.
The asteroid, dubbed 2011 AG5 and which came within just 1.1 million miles earlier this year, is unusually oblong and shares the same rough proportions as the Empire State Building at 1,600 feet in length and approximately 500 feet in width.
"Of the 1,040 near-Earth objects observed by planetary radar to date, this is one of the most elongated we’ve seen," said Lance Benner, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, who led the observations, in a statement.
While the asteroid was first discovered over a decade ago, we've finally been able to get a detailed look at its shape and orbit.
Using the Goldstone Solar System Radar antenna dish at the Deep Space Network’s facility in California, astronomers were also able to confirm that the asteroid slowly rotates around its own axis every nine hours.
Astronomers were also able to refine the path the asteroid takes as it orbits the Sun. A full orbit takes roughly 621 days, and it won't make a close pass of Earth until 2040.
The asteroid was once deemed a potential threat.
"Interestingly, shortly after its discovery, 2011 AG5 became a poster-child asteroid when our analysis showed it had a small chance of a future impact," said Paul Chodas, the director of NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies, in the statement.
Fortunately, for now, we can gaze upon the strange Empire State Building in the sky without having to worry about an imminent collision.
"Continued observations of this object ruled out any chance of impact, and these new ranging measurements by the planetary radar team will further refine exactly where it will be far into the future," he added.
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