Double asteroid tracked by VLT in planetary defence check – Astronomy Now

June 4, 2019 - Comment

The left body reveals asteroid 1999 KW4 as imaged by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Massive Telescope and the SPHERE planet-hunting instrument. The picture on the proper is an artist’s impression of the double asteroid. Picture: ESO The European Southern Observatory’s Very Massive Telescope participated in check coordinated by the Worldwide Asteroid Warning Community, efficiently



The left body reveals asteroid 1999 KW4 as imaged by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Massive Telescope and the SPHERE planet-hunting instrument. The picture on the proper is an artist’s impression of the double asteroid. Picture: ESO

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Massive Telescope participated in check coordinated by the Worldwide Asteroid Warning Community, efficiently concentrating on, monitoring and imaging a double asteroid because it flew inside 5.2 million kilometres (three.2 million miles) of Earth on 25 Could.

Utilizing the delicate SPHERE planet-finding instrument connected to VLT’s Unit three telescope, together with state-of-the-art adaptive optics, asteroid 1999 KW4’s two elements, separated by simply 2.6 kilometres (1.6 miles), have been clearly seen regardless of their fast observe throughout the sky and considerably unstable air above the observatory.

The double asteroid was shifting by house at some 77,000 kilometres per hour (48,000 mph). Whereas the bigger member of the pair has a diameter of about 1.three kilometres (zero.eight mile), the duo’s orbit is well-known and there’s no threat of affect with Earth.

However by learning the passing asteroids with a wide range of devices, the IAWN marketing campaign goals to study extra about detecting, monitoring and learning threatening asteroids to provide engineers and scientists time to develop doable countermeasures.

“These information, mixed with all these which can be obtained on different telescopes by the IAWN marketing campaign, will probably be important for evaluating efficient deflection methods within the occasion that an asteroid was discovered to be on a collision course with Earth,” stated ESO astronomer Olivier Hainaut.

“Within the worst doable case, this data can be important to foretell how an asteroid might work together with the ambiance and Earth’s floor, permitting us to mitigate harm within the occasion of a collision.”

Imaging asteroid 1999 KW4 was a problem for the VLT given its distance and fast motion throughout the sky. Picture: ESO

Observing the fast-moving double asteroid was a serious problem for operators of ESO’s VLT.

“In the course of the observations the atmospheric circumstances have been a bit unstable,” stated Mathias Jones, a VLT astronomer. “As well as, the asteroid was comparatively faint and shifting very quick within the sky, making these observations significantly difficult, and inflicting the AO system to crash a number of occasions. It was nice to see our onerous work repay regardless of the difficulties.”

1999 KW4 is analogous in look to Didymos, a double asteroid made up of a 780-metre-wide (2,560-foot-wide) part – Didymos A – and a smaller sibling measuring 160 metres (525 toes) throughout.

Assuming funding questions are resolved, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Check, or DART, spacecraft will intentionally crash into Didymos B in 2022 in an try to barely change its orbital velocity and in so doing, show the feasibility of deflecting a threatening asteroid. Observations like these of 1999 KW4 will probably be carried out to doc the mission’s outcomes.



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