Last weekend the asteroid 2014 HQ124 passed by our planet at just over three lunar distances - a safe distance, yes, but still a relatively close call for an object longer than an aircraft carrier and traveling a relative velocity of 31,000 mph! And even at that distance and speed astronomers were able to obtain some of the best images yet of any passing asteroid, by combining the power of radar telescopes located thousands of miles apart.
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Before its June 8 close approach HQ124 had been nicknamed "The Beast" due to its considerable size. But now that the radar data has been obtained astronomers see it as anything but.
"These radar observations show that the asteroid is a beauty, not a beast," said Alessondra Springmann, a data analyst at Arecibo Observatory, home of the 305-meter William E. Gordon Telescope.
With an elongated, lobed shape resembling a peanut, HQ124 is what's known as a contact binary - a single large asteroid formed by the connection of two smaller ones.