NASA images show asteroids passing Earth

NASA has captured photos and videos of the two massive asteroids that passed by our planet a few weeks ago.

The two asteroids, 2011 UL21 and 2024 MK, passed by Earth on June 27 and 29 respectively and were captured by NASA’s Deep Space Network’s Goldstone planetary radar.

While 2011 UL21 flew past us at a distance of 6.6 million kilometers, about 17 times farther away than the Moon, 2024 MK came within 290,000 kilometers of our planet, within the Moon’s 384,000 kilometer orbit.

2011 UL21 was much larger than 2024 MK, with a gigantic diameter of about a mile. 2024 MK, on ​​the other hand, was estimated to have a diameter between 394 and 853 feet, about the same size as the Washington Monument.

asteroid nasa
Image of asteroid 2024 MK. Taken by NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar, this asteroid was captured as it approached Earth on June 29 at a distance of 184,000 miles.


2011 UL21 was first spotted by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey in 2011, but this is the first time it has come so close to Earth. Astronomers took the opportunity to study the asteroid in more detail using the Deep Space Network’s Goldstone Solar System Radar, and discovered that it actually has a small moon orbiting it about 2 miles away.

“About two-thirds of asteroids this size are thought to be binary star systems. Their discovery is significant because we can use measurements of their relative positions to estimate their orbits, masses, and densities, providing important information about how they may have formed,” said Lance Benner, chief scientist at JPL, in a NASA statement.

NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar was also used to study 2024 MK as it passed Earth, capturing images as it tumbled through space. This allowed astronomers to spot details on the asteroid’s surface, including ridges and huge boulders. 2024 MK was only discovered by scientists 13 days before its closest approach to Earth.

asteroid 2011 UL21
Asteroid 2011 UL21 as it approaches Earth on June 27. The asteroid and its tiny moon (a bright dot at the bottom of the image) are circled in white.


“This was an extraordinary opportunity to investigate the physics of a close-to-Earth asteroid and obtain detailed images,” Benner said.

Both 2011 UL21 and 2024 MK are classified as near-Earth objects (NEOs) and potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) because of their size and how close they came to Earth. NEOs are defined as any object that comes within 1.3 astronomical units of the Sun (one AU is the distance from Earth to the Sun, or about 93 million miles).

PHAs, on the other hand, are defined as coming within 4.6 million miles of Earth’s orbit and also being large enough to cause significant damage upon impact. They typically have an absolute magnitude of 22.0 or brighter, which generally equates to a diameter of about 460 feet or larger.

Fortunately, none of these asteroids will pose a threat to our planet in the future.

“A 100-200 m asteroid [330-650 feet] “A 1.2m diameter would cause a regional disaster, affecting a small country, but with consequent global consequences in terms of the world economy and ‘globalisation’,” Jay Tate, the director of the Spaceguard Centre, an observatory in the UK, previously told Newsweek.

According to NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, “no known asteroids pose a significant risk of impact with Earth in the next 100 years.”

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