There's an asteroid out there that looks a lot like Dungeons and Dragons dice.
The NASA Goldstone Solar System Radar is located in California's Mojave Desert. On Feb. 7, it captured images of 2017 BQ6, revealing the asteroid's irregular, angular appearance at a resolution of 12 feet per pixel.
"The radar images show relatively sharp corners, flat regions, concavities, and small bright spots that may be boulders," said Lance Brenner from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, adding the asteroid is more angular compared to most of the near-Earth asteroids imaged by radar and that it reminds him of the dice used in the game Dungeons and Dragons.
Brenner leads the space agency's program for asteroid radar research.
Asteroid 2017 BQ6
2017 BQ6 passed Earth safely on Feb. 6, 10: 36 p.m. PST (Feb. 7, 1:36 a.m. EST) at a location about 6.6 times of the distance between the moon and the Earth, or 1.6 million miles away. The asteroid was first spotted by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Project, a NASA-funded program operated by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, on Jan. 26.
Keeping Track Of Asteroids
In January, JPL data revealed that an asteroid called 2017 AG3 barely missed Earth when it made its closest approach at a point equivalent to about half the distance between the moon and the planet at a speed of 9.9 miles per second.
Numerous space rocks hurtle by Earth but 2017 AG3 was not spotted until two days prior to the flyby by the University of Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey. Initial observations of the asteroid showed that it will need about 347 Earth days to make a revolution around the sun and that it is roughly the size of the asteroid that hit Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013. 2017 AG3 was estimated to be between 36 and 111 feet while the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk was about 65 feet.
Had the asteroid entered the Earth's atmosphere, it would have disintegrated as an air burst, which is 30 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that exploded in Hiroshima, Japan. This sounds frightening but those on the ground will actually be safe because the explosion would occur about 10 miles high in the air.
Thousands of asteroids have already been detected but NASA said the planet is not ready for an actual impact, especially one that catches Earth by surprise. If it's any consolation, however, chances of an extinction-level asteroid impact happening in the next 100 years is estimated to be at less than 0.01 percent.
International Asteroid Day
In December 2016, the United Nations announced that June 30 has been designated as International Asteroid Day, in an effort to raise awareness toward the dangers of asteroid impacts and what efforts are being carried out to keep the planet safe from extraterrestrial threats.
The date was specifically chosen because it has asteroid-related significance. On June 30 almost 100 years ago, the Tunguska asteroid hit a Siberian forest and leveled 772 square miles of the area with 185 times more of the energy that the Hiroshima atomic bomb created.