NASA detects 1,000 Near-Earth Asteroid – All you need to know

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA has marked the 1,000th Near-Earth Asteroid named ‘2021 PJ1’as it passed Earth. Read all you need to know.

Created On: Sep 7, 2021 15:13 IST
1,001st asteroid ‘2016 AJ193’, Source: NASA/JPL
1,001st asteroid ‘2016 AJ193’, Source: NASA/JPL

1000th Near-Earth Asteroid: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on August 14, 2021, marked the 1,000th Near-Earth Asteroid named ‘2021 PJ1’as it passed Earth at a distance of approximately 1.7 million kilometers. The asteroid was not a threat to Earth but it was a historic event. Just seven days after 2021 PJ1, the 1,001st asteroid ‘2016 AJ193’ passed Earth on August 22 at a distance of approximately 3.4 million kilometers.

Between 20 and 30 meters wide, the 2021 PJ1 asteroid was too small therefore detailed radar imagery could not be obtained, said Lance Benner who leads the asteroid radar research program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. However, the planetary radar was powerful enough to detect the asteroid at that distance and measure its velocity to very high precision. This has helped the laboratory to study the motion of the 2021 PJ1 asteroid in the future.

Radar observation of asteroids

The first radar observation of asteroids is a powerful technique that has been used to observe passing Near-Earth Asteroids (NEA) and comets. NEA and comets are collectively referred to Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). The first radar observation of the asteroid ‘1566 lcarus’ was conducted in 1968.

There are approximately 27,000 known Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) in our solar system.

Significance of radar observation of asteroids

The radar observation of asteroids has been assisting in improving the knowledge of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs), predict their movement or trajectory in the future in terms of decades to centuries, and most importantly study if an asteroid will collide with Earth or simply pass by. With the help of radar observation, scientists are able to obtain detailed information about the physical properties of Near-Earth Objects.

Depending on the size and distance of an asteroid from Earth, the radar system is able to image its surface in massive detail.

Planetary radar observation of asteroids is significant for monitoring asteroids and detecting potentially hazardous objects that come close to Earth and contribute largely to the planetary defense efforts.

How did NASA’s JPL image 1,000th Near-Earth Asteroid?

Lance Benner who leads the asteroid radar research program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory along with his team used the 70-meter Deep Space Station (DSS)-14 antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Complex of the Deep Space Network in California to transmit radio waves to the asteroid and receive the radar reflections also known as echoes back from the asteroid.

DSS-14 antenna and DSS-13 antenna of the Goldstone Deep Space Complex have detected 374 Near-Earth Asteroids (NEA) to date.

 

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