Scientists at the Arecibo observatory help solve the mystery of an unexpected asteroid

(ORDO NEWS) — On July 25, 2019, having received an alarm about the asteroid 2019 OK moving towards Earth, radar scientists took aim at it. He approached from the blind zone of the Earth – the solar opposition.

Zambrano Marina, an employee of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, and the team had 30 minutes to get as many radar readings as possible. The asteroid was moving so fast that it should have been in Arecibo’s field of vision just in that time.

The asteroid made headlines because it appeared out of nowhere and rotated at a high speed: from 3 to 5 minutes. This means that it is included in only 4.2 percent of the known fast-spinning asteroids. This is a growing group that researchers say needs more attention.

The data indicate that the asteroid is most likely a C-type, consisting of clay and silicate rocks, or an S-type, consisting of silicate and nickel-iron rocks. C-type asteroids are among the most common and among the oldest in our solar system. S-type is the second most common.

Zambrano-Marin is currently reviewing the information obtained from the Arecibo planetary radar database to continue its research.

While the observatory’s telescope went out of service in 2020, the Planetary Radar team can use an existing databank spanning four decades. Scientific operations continue in space and atmospheric sciences, with observatory staff repairing 12-meter antennas to continue astronomical research.

Nearly 30,000 asteroids are known, according to the Center for Near-Earth Space Studies, and although only a few of them pose an immediate threat, there is a possibility that one of a significant size could hit the Earth and cause catastrophic damage.

NASA and other space agencies are launching missions to study near-Earth asteroids to better understand what they are made of and how they move, in anticipation of having to deflect one heading for Earth in the future.

The OSIRIS REx mission returns to Earth with a sample of the asteroid Bennu, which has given scientists several surprises.

A new NASA mission – Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) – is designed to demonstrate the possibility of redirecting an asteroid using the kinetic energy of a projectile. The spacecraft launched in November 2021 and is expected to reach its target, the asteroid Dimorphos, on September 26, 2022.

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