Giant Asteroid Zooms Close to Earth, Revealing an Odd Shape

A near Earth brush — but not close enough for impact — by this giant 1,200 foot asteroid provided the perfect opportunity to get a closer look at the asteroid (and its odd shape, like a slightly jagged peanut) with these pictures, some of the sharpest images of an asteroid ever taken.

Top image: Asteroid 2014 HQ124 in collage, NASA-JPL

There was not a concern that Asteroid 2014 HQ124 would impact Earth. It did, however, brush by us pretty close, coming nearest last week, on June 8 (as you can see in this orbit diagram) at over 770,000 miles away.


Image: Orbit diagram, NASA / JPL

That distance turned out to be the perfect one to grab this series of high resolution snaps, which you can also see animated below. By capturing the asteroid as it rotated, astronomers Marina Brozovic and Lance Benner at JPL were able to get a pretty good idea of the shape of the whole asteroid, even seeing features that were, as Benner noted, no wider than an average traffic lane.

The peanut shape of the asteroid itself, is not so very unusual, about 1 in 6 o f every asteroid spotted shares a similar one. There were, however, some oddities unique to HQ124, including notably a large-peaked hill in the middle and a concave area stretching across almost an entire side of the asteroid.

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