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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Space Rock

Вращение астероида 2011 UW158 (Аресибо)
(The rotation of asteroid 2011 UW158 (Arecibo))
Radar image from Arecibo radio observatory in Puerto Rico.

The Near-Earth Object (436724) 2011 UW158 on 2015-07-09
Optical observation from from Siding Spring Observatory, Coonabarabran, NSW, Australia.

While we are sending probes to reconnoiter rocks in the far reaches of the solar system, whatever gods there be are sending rocks to probe our local space neighborhood. Asteroid 2011 UW158 passed a little more than 1.5 million miles of earth last Tuesday and thanks to our astronomers, we got some pictures, or so the news reports would have you believe. I had to dig a bit to come up with these, and while they are not Hollywood Awesome, they are pretty impressive considering how far away (4.3 million miles when the pictures were taken) and how small this thing is (1,000 by 2,000 feet), and I certainly didn't expect to get images from a radio telescope!
    The news reports are all blathering about how this rock in made of platinum and is worth a fortune. On one hand I want to say 'I told you there was gold in them that hills'. On the other hand I can just see this prompting someone to embark on a half baked scheme to bring it into a low earth orbit so we can mine it, and then the funding runs out and as a desperate last gasp, the miners deorbit this rock and bring it crashing down to earth which brings our civilization to an end. At least we'd die rich.

Via Detroit Steve.

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