Astronomers Discovered an Asteroid Last Year: Turns Out There Were Two Asteroids Orbiting Each Other

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Are those twins? That’s how astronomers reacted a month ago when they studied an asteroid called 2017 YE5. Near-Earth asteroid 2017 YE5 was first observed with the Morocco Oukaimeden Sky Survey on December 21, 2017. Back then, the physical properties of the asteroid weren’t yet known.

On June 21, the asteroid got closer to Earth, allowing astronomers to find out more about it.

NASA announced on 12 July that there the asteroid 2017 YE5 was a binary asteroid, and they also uploaded a video explaining their findings. They saw two objects which orbited each other!

The first signs showing that 2017 YE5 was a binary asteroid were seen on June 21 and 22, at NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar (GSSR) in California.

Astronomers used the world’s biggest three radar telescopes: the Goldstone Solar System Radar, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, and the Green Bank Observatory (GBO) in West Virginia. Optical observations were used to measure the brightness of the binary asteroid, which confirmed the findings from the three radar telescopes. They all found out that 2017 YE5 was actually a pair of pieces of rock, which circled each other every 20-24 hours.

A Rare Binary Asteroid – Scientists Will See it Again 170 Years Later!

That makes them the fourth binary asteroids discovered by scientists. These space rocks are almost the same size (900 meters across). Equal-mass binaries are very rare because the majority of binary asteroids are uneven.

But what really amazed astronomers was the new observations which showed that the pair isn’t identical. One of them looks darker than the other, meaning that it either has a different texture or it is made of different materials.

The binary asteroid flew by Earth at a distance of 6 million kilometers, and it allowed astronomers to find more details about it. Scientists will be able to reveal more secrets, but that’s going to be 170 years later when the asteroids will get close to Earth again. But as technology advances, we might need less time to get high-resolution data on 2017 YE5, even if it’s further away.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere