Astronomy Picture of the Day
November 20, 2012

The Near-Earth Asteroid 2007-PA8
The Near-Earth Asteroid 2007-PA8

NASA/JPL-Deep Space Network - Credits for the additional process. and color.: Elisabetta Bonora and Marco Faccin/Lunar Explorer Italia/IPF

Scientists working with NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network Antenna at Goldstone, California, have obtained several radar images depicting the near-Earth Asteroid 2007 PA8. The images were generated from data collected at Goldstone on October 28, 29 and 30, 2012. The Asteroid's distance from Earth on October 28 was approx. 6,5 Million Miles (such as about 10 Million KiloMeters - MKM). The Asteroid's distance to Earth was then approx. 5.6 Million Miles (such as about 9 MKM) on October 30. The perspective in the images is analogous to seeing the Asteroid from above its North Pole.

Each of the three images is shown at the same scale. The radar images of Asteroid 2007 PA8 indicate that it is an elongated, irregularly shaped object approximately one mile (1,6 Km) wide, with Ridges and perhaps Craters on its Surface. The data also indicate that 2007 PA8 rotates very slowly, roughly once every three to four days. JPL scientists chose to image Asteroid 2007 PA8 due to its size and relative proximity to Earth at the point of closest approach. On November 5, at 08:42 a.m. PST (11:42 a.m. EST/16:42 UTC), this Celestial Body was about 4 Million Miles (such as approx. 6,5 MKM) from Earth, or, if you prefer, 17 times the distance between Earth and Moon. The trajectory of Asteroid 2007 PA8 is well understood. This "Fly-By" was the closest Earth approach by this Asteroid for at least the next 200 years.

NASA detects, tracks and characterizes Asteroids and Comets passing close to Earth by using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called "Spaceguard", discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and plots their orbits in order to determine if any of them could actually be potentially hazardous to our Home Planet.

These three frames (which are the Original NASA - Deep Space Network Radar Images) have been additionally processed and then colorized, according to an informed speculation carried out by Elisabetta Bonora and Marco Faccin (LXTT-IPF), in Natural Colors (such as the colors that a perfect human eye - or an electronic eye - would actually perceive if someone were onboard a Spacecraft and then looked outside, towards the near-Earth Asteroid 2007 PA8), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team. Different colors, as well as different shades of the same color, mean, among others, the existence of different Elements present on the Surface of the Asteroid 2007 PA8, each having a different Albedo (---> Reflectivity) and Chemical Composition.

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