Massive Binary Asteroid Has Just Passed By Earth

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One of the handiest tools that allow researchers to observe nearby asteroids is operational again after it was disabled by a series of earthquakes that took place in January. A team of researchers harnessed the power of the reinvigorated device to track a large asteroid, which was accompanied by a smaller one.

After extensive repairs, the Arecibo Observatory, which is located in Puerto Rico, was deemed to be usable. In the meantime, the asteroid was spotted by using a telescope located in Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The asteroid received the name of 2020 BX 2020. Due to the impressive speed at which it traveled by our planet, it was classified as a potentially dangerous asteroid. It passed by Earth a distance of 2.7 million miles or 4.3 kilometers, and astronomers argue that it will not come so close in the future.

The radar present at Arecibo discovered the asteroid and revealed a surprising trait as it is accompanied by a smaller asteroid, forming a binary pair.

NASA keeps an eye on the binary asteroid

According to official statistics published by NASA, more than 15% of all the asteroids that are discovered form a binary system. In our case, observation data collected by the team suggests that the larger one has a diameter of 540 feet (or 165 meters) while the smaller one reaches 230 feet (70 meters). They are separated by a distance of approximately 1,200 feet (or 360 meters).

A full orbit is completed every 45 to 50 hours, with the smaller asteroid being more brighter and tidally locked by the bigger one, which means that the former will always show the same side to the latter.

Asteroids may house valuable information about the formation and evolution of the universe, but some of them could pose a real risk for our planet in the future. Many space agencies are hard at work on defensive and pre-emptive mechanisms that will allow Earth to avoid potential threats.