Washington, Jan 26: NASA scientists have obtained the first images of asteroid 2007 TU24 using high-resolution radar data, which indicates that the object is somewhat asymmetrical in shape, with a diameter roughly 250 meters (800 feet) in size.
This is the first radar detection of the asteroid, acquired using the Goldstone 70-meter (230-foot) antenna. According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, 2007 TU24 will pass within 1.4 lunar distances, or 538,000 kilometers (334,000 miles) of Earth on January 29. "With these first radar observations finished, we can guarantee that next week's 1.4-lunar-distance approach is the closest until at least the end of the next century," said Steve Ostro, JPL astronomer and principal investigator for the project.
"It is also the asteroid's closest Earth approach for more than 2,000 years," he said. Asteroid 2007 TU24 was discovered by the NASA-sponsored Catalina Sky Survey on October 11, 2007.
The asteroid will reach an approximate apparent magnitude 10.3 on Jan. 29-30 before quickly becoming fainter as it moves farther from Earth. On that night, the asteroid will be observable in dark and clear skies through amateur telescopes with apertures of at least 7.6 centimeters (three inches).
Ostro and his team plan further radar observations of asteroid 2007 TU24 using the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico on Jan. 27-28 and Feb. 1-4.
Scientists at NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL have determined that there is no possibility of an impact with Earth in the foreseeable future.