As Asteroid Zooms Past, NASA Nabs Images

Scientists see mysteries in grainy images
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2011 8:39 AM CST

(Newser) – An asteroid passed closer to the Earth than any before it last night—it was just 201,000 miles away, making it closer than the moon—but to your average telescope it was nothing but a brief glimmer in the sky. NASA, however, has some pretty above-average telescopes, like its 230-foot-wide radio telescope in Barstow, Calif., which bombarded the rock with microwaves, allowing NASA to generate enough detailed images to create the animation below, the Los Angeles Times reports.

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The video may not look like much, but it’s got astronomers excited. "The animation reveals a number of puzzling structures on the surface that we don't yet understand," one radar astronomer says. "To date, we've seen less than one half of the surface, so we expect more surprises." NASA also collected data on the asteroid’s topography, trajectory, and other characteristics, and discovered that it’ll make an encore performance sometime around 2075. (Read more asteroid stories.)

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