NASA Shares Images of Asteroid Dubbed Space Peanut

Posted on August 2, 2015

Asteroid 1999 JD6

NASA has shared grainy images of an asteroid it has called a "space peanut." The asteroid has two lobes giving it a peanut-shaped body. The asteroid is 1.2 miles long on its long axis. The asteroid passed within 4.5 million miles (7.2 million kilometers) of Earth this weekend. The images of asteroid 1999 JD6 were collected on July 25th.

4.5 million miles is about 19 times the distance from the Earth to the moon. The asteroid is a contact binary, meaning it has two lobes stuck together. NASA used two telescopes to obtain the image - the Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California and the National Science Foundation Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. NASA used the two telescopes to bounce radar signals off the asteroid in a technique called bistatic observation.

Peanut shaped asteroids are not uncommon, especially for large asteroids. Lance Benner of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. leads NASA's asteroid radar research program. He says in a statement, "Radar imaging has shown that about 15 percent of near-Earth asteroids larger than 600 feet (about 180 meters), including 1999 JD6, have this sort of lobed, peanut shape."

NASA also provided an animation using the radar observations of 1999 JD6. Take a look:



Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR