Scientists Produce Sharp Views of Asteroid 2014 HQ124
A recently discovered asteroid went past earth at just over three lunar distances last weekend and now scientists have produced its sharp views by using earth-based radar.
The asteroid, named 2014 HQ124, was captured on June 8, 2014. Its views are some of the most detailed images of a near-earth asteroid ever.
Scientists Marina Brozovic and Lance Benner of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California made it possible to obtain the radar observations. In a bid to plan and execute the observations, the JPL researchers work in tandem with Michael Nolan, Patrick Taylor, Ellen Howell and Alessondra Springmann at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
The appearance of 2014 HQ124 is elongated and irregular. And it seems to be at least 1,200 feet (370 meters) wide on its long axis. There is no denying the possibility that it could be a double object or contact binary consisting of two objects making a single asteroid with a 'lobed' shape.
Over a span of four-and-a-half hours, the researchers obtained 21 radar images. The rotation of the asteroid was recorded to be a few degrees per frame during that interval. It clearly suggested that its rotation period is slightly less than 24 hours.
The researchers first paired the large Goldstone antenna with the 1,000-foot (305-meter) Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico to image 2014 HQ124. And then, they the large Goldstone was paired with a smaller companion, a 112-foot (34-meter) antenna, located about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away.
The toe facilities were able to coordinate with each other after a recent equipment upgrade at Arecibo. As a result, they were able to obtain images with excellent fine level for the first time ever in the history.
"By itself, the Goldstone antenna can obtain images that show features as small as the width of a traffic lane on the highway. With Arecibo now able to receive our highest-resolution Goldstone signals, we can create a single system that improves the overall quality of the images", said Benner.