NASA offers startling view of the 'Beast' thanks to new image tech
America's space agency NASA is continuing to deliver the best imagery of the world beyond our world. New upgrades to the technology at the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico have given the agency the ability to deliver high-quality pictures of asteroid 2014 HQ124, which recently passed close to Earth.
That asteroid, dubbed "Beast" by many, was one of the rare close encounters for the planet with an asteroid, and the upgraded telescope by NASA should help to increase the operational capacity of the 305 meter Arecibo that can work with other radar signals that can be received simultaneously to give better imaging and more focus.
For the recent asteroid showing, the Goldstone Deep Space Network antenna was the anchor, but with Arecibo's upgrades, it played a vital role in helping to bring about the highest quality images possible.
NASA said in a statement that the upgraded telescope technology will allow for better understanding and closer imagining of space rocks and asteroids that had previously been out of reach. And the "Beast" has garnered much attention based on its size and proximity.
"The asteroid is about 1,300 feet (400 meters) long and about half as wide," says NASA.
"The radar images reveal a wealth of interesting features, including a large depression or concavity on the larger lobe as well as two blocky, sharp-edged features at the bottom on the radar echo. Scientists suspect that some of the bright features that persist from frame to frame could be surface boulders."
According to NASA, the asteroid came as close as 776,000 miles to Earth, or "slightly more than three times the distance to the moon." Scientists and researchers then began to monitor the asteroid shortly thereafter in order to learn as much as they could about the asteroid which, although posing no direct threat to the planet, could help locate other similar threats.
For those who may not understand the images that NASA has published, the agency does give a brief explanation.
"The first five images in the sequence -- the top row in the montage -- represent the data collected by Arecibo, and demonstrate that these data are 30 times brighter than what Goldstone can produce observing on its own. There is a gap of about 35 minutes between the first and second rows in the montage, or between the fifth and sixth frames in the video. The gap represents the time needed to switch from receiving at Arecibo to receiving at the smaller Goldstone station," NASA says.