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Surprise — it's twins!
That's the realization that struck astronomers in June after they set out to study a near-Earth asteroid called 2017 YE5, which NASA today (July 12) announced is actually two asteroids, a pair of objects orbiting each other.
Asteroids - Radar - Telescopes - Beam - Radio
The bouncing-baby asteroids were revealed by three radar telescopes, which shoot a beam of radio waves at nearby asteroids and wait for the reflection to return to Earth. Astronomers can use those received signals to paint a picture of the shape of an asteroid. In this case, that meant discovering that what looked like two lobes of one rock are actually two separate rocks, circling each other every 20 to 24 hours.
It's a particularly exciting surprise because the two pieces of 2017 YE5 are almost the same size, each about 3,000 feet (900 meters) across. So far, scientists have spotted only three other such well-matched...
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