An animation of the rotating asteroid and a collage of the images are available at:
The radar observations were led by scientists
According to Benner, 2014 HQ124 appears to be an elongated, irregular object that is at least 1,200 feet (370 meters) wide on its long axis. "This may be a double object, or 'contact binary,' consisting of two objects that form a single asteroid with a lobed shape," he said. The images reveal a wealth of other features, including a puzzling pointy hill near the object's middle, on top as seen in the images.
The 21 radar images were taken over a span of four-and-a-half hours. During that interval, the asteroid rotated a few degrees per frame, suggesting its rotation period is slightly less than 24 hours.
At its closest approach to Earth on
Each image in the collage and movie represents 10 minutes of data.
The new views show features as small as about 12 feet (3.75 meters) wide. This is the highest resolution currently possible using scientific radar antennas to produce images. Such sharp views for this asteroid were made possible by linking together two giant radio telescopes to enhance their capabilities.
To obtain the new views, researchers paired the 230-foot (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone,
To image 2014 HQ124, the researchers first paired the large Goldstone antenna with the 1,000-foot (305-meter) Arecibo radio telescope in
A recent equipment upgrade at Arecibo enabled the two facilities to work in tandem to obtain images with this fine level of detail for the first time.
"By itself, the Goldstone antenna can obtain images that show features as small as the width of a traffic lane on the highway," said Benner. "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."
The first five images in the new sequence -- the top row in the collage -- represent the data collected by Arecibo, and are 30 times brighter than what Goldstone can produce observing on its own.
Scientists were fortunate to be able to make these radar observations at all, as this particular asteroid was only recently discovered.
For asteroids, as well as comets, radar is a powerful tool for studying the objects' size, shape, rotation, surface features and orbits. Radar measurements of asteroid distances and velocities enable researchers to compute orbits much further into the future than if radar observations were not available.
Along with the resources
The contributions of JPL engineers
Through its Asteroid Initiative,
JPL manages the
More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects is available at:
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