Binary asteroid comes close to Earth this week

July 15th, 2008 - 11:52 am ICT by IANS  

By Richa Sharma
New Delhi, July 15 (IANS) In a month packed with celestial activity, sky gazers in India can watch out for a binary asteroid close to Earth this week - albeit with the help of a telescope. Asteroid 2008 BT18 is gliding past Earth and astronomers have just discovered that it is a binary system.

“Radar images of the close-approaching space rock reveal two components, a primary and a secondary asteroid. Among all the near-Earth asteroids only a handful come this close,” Nehru Planetarium director N. Rathnashree told IANS

A binary asteroid is a system of two asteroids, where both bodies are roughly of the same size.

“We in India will require a high resolution telescope to see the binary asteroid. While countries in southern hemisphere like Australia, South America, parts of Africa and Antarctica would be able to have a clear image,” Rathnashree said.

BT18 makes its closest approach to Earth (1.4 to 2 million km) during the week and will flit through Canis Major - a constellation - heading south, glowing like a 13th magnitude star, she said.

Scientists are always keen to study the make-up and dynamics of these systems as it helps them figure out how to deflect binaries on a collision course with Earth.

This celestial event will be followed by a solar eclipse Aug 1.

“The solar eclipse will be seen partially in India, but there is likely to be considerable excitement arising from the fact that a large fraction of the eclipse would be seen from the northern parts of the country,” Rathnashree said.

On July 9, Jupiter came closest to Earth and Jupiter appeared at its brightest.

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