NASA asteroid Earth approach: MILE-WIDE asteroid with its own MINI MOON set to skim Earth

An asteroid binary first spotted 20 years ago will make another close encounter with Earth this week. US space agency NASA has been tracking the brace of space rocks, dubbed KW4. And grainy footage shows the asteroid growing steadily brighter as it approaches Earth ahead of its closest approach on May 25.

Although classified by NASA as technically “potentially hazardous”, asteroid 1999 KW4 will breeze by safely.

Even at its closest, the space rock fly-by 3,216,271 miles from Earth – 13.5 times the distance to the moon.

Asteroid 1999 KW4 is actually two objects, consisting of a larger space rock measuring 0.8 mile across (1.3km) and a mini moon orbiting it.

NASA explained: “The main body (primary) of 1999 KW4 is about 1300 meters across, but is actually quite a complex shape.

“It is slightly squashed at the poles and with a mountain ridge around the equator, which runs all the way around the asteroid,’ according to the observatory.

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“This ridge gives the primary an appearance similar to a walnut or a spinning top.

“The secondary is about 500 meters across and the two asteroids orbit each other every 17.5 hours at a distance of about 1.6 miles.”

NASA has unveiled a pixilated low-res look at the asteroid ahead of its near-Earth approach.

The European Space Agency (ESA) said in a statement: “The goal is to put observatories and telescopes to the test, to become aware of what kind of information can be collected on short notice in case of a future close approach of a possibly threatening asteroid.”

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Dozens of telescopes will tune in to gather observations.

Asteroid 1999 KW4 was discovered on May 20, 1999 by the LINEAR collaboration using the Goldstone and Arecibo observatories.

The asteroid orbits the sun roughly approximately every 186 days on an elliptical path.

The space rock has has made a succession of near Earth Earth approaches in the last century, and will get even closer with its next approach in May 2036.

Then, the asteroid is expected to be within 1,487,292 miles away.

Previous observations have revealed asteroid 1999 KW4 is much like an oddly shaped “rubble pile”, according to California’s Las Cumbres Observatory.

The upcoming approach will provide even more insight into its behaviour, which will prove useful for upcoming missions supported by NASA’s Planetary Defence Coordination Office that aim to study similar systems.

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