NASA’s planetary radar captures a stadium-size asteroid during its close approach

NASA’s Deep Space Network planetary radar, named Goldstone Solar System Radar has captured the first detailed images of a stadium-size asteroid, 2008 OS7 during its close approach with earth on February 2, 2024.

NASA's powerful 230-foot (70-meter) Goldstone Radar captured the stadium-size asteroid, 2008 OS7, during its close approach with Earth on February 2, 2024
NASA’s powerful 230-foot (70-meter) Goldstone Radar captured the stadium-size asteroid, 2008 OS7, during its close approach with Earth on February 2, 2024. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

On February 2, 2024, the asteroid 2008 OS7 passed the Earth safely at a distance of about 2.9 million kilometers, or 7.5 times the distance between Earth and the Moon.

The NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey, which is headquartered at the University of Arizona in Tucson, discovered the asteroid 2008 OS7 on July 30, 2008, while doing routine search operations for near-Earth objects (NEO).

After discovery, it was roughly estimated that the asteroid 2008 OS7 is 650 to 1,640 feet (200 and 500 meters) wide and takes 29.5 hours to rotate around its own axis.

However, using the powerful 230-foot (70-meter) Goldstone Solar System Radar antenna dish, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have found that the asteroid is smaller than previously estimated – about 500 to 650 feet (150 to 200 meters) wide – and confirmed its uncommonly slow rotation.

Orbital path of the asteroid 2008 OS7 around the Sun
Orbital path of the asteroid 2008 OS7 around the Sun (in white). (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The new observations from Goldstone radar also help scientists refine measurements of the asteroid’s orbital path around the Sun. The asteroid 2008 OS7 takes 2.6 years (962 days) to orbit the sun once, and it comes within the orbit of Venus during its closest point to the sun (perihelion) and past the orbit of Mars during its farthest point from the sun (aphelion).

So the asteroid 2008 OS7 is an Apollo class asteroid, meaning its orbit crosses the earth’s orbit. The Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), which calculates the orbit of every known near-Earth object (NEO), classified 2008 OS7 as a potentially hazardous asteroid due to its close proximity to Earth and its size.

However, we don’t need to be worried. Because the close approach on February 2 was the closest to Earth in the coming 200 years.

The United States Congress has tasked NASA to detect and track near-Earth objects (NEO) of size 460 feet (140 meters) and larger. These objects will cause significant damage to the ground if they hit our planet.

Visit the interactive visualization map to see the real-time position of thousands of asteroids and comets.

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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