“The Beast” Asteroid Blazes Path Past Earth

NASA scientists used Earth-based radar to produce these sharp views of the HQ124 asteroid on June 8, 2014. Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arecibo Observatory/USRA/NSF

Asteroids zip by Earth all the time, but not many make as big an impression as “The Beast,” which caromed past our astronomical neighborhood about a week ago.

Now, radar observations released by NASA reveal the hidden looks of asteroid HQ124 (the formal designation of The Beast). They were taken at its closest approach to Earth on June 8. They show that the potato-shaped asteroid measured at least 1,200 feet long (375 meters) and was slowly spinning as it passed within 776,000 miles (1.25 million kilometers) of Earth. That’s a little more than three times the distance to the moon.

“This may be a double object, or ‘contact binary,’ consisting of two objects that form a single asteroid with a lobed shape,” said astronomer Lance Benner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a statement on the asteroid.

NASA even made a video of the asteroid, based on the radar observations. Here’s hoping that this view is as close a look as Earth ever gets of the asteroid.

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