An asteroid called 2015 BN509 was caught flying past the Earth
Space rock was captured on film by The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico
It is about 200 meters (660ft) wide by 400 meters (1,310ft) long
Nasa warned the giant object is ‘potentially hazardous’
A peanut-shaped asteroid larger than the Empire State Building could one day hit Earth, Nasa has warned.
The space rock, known as 2015 BN509, came close to Earth last week when it flew past at 44,000mph (70,500km).
At it closest approach, it came just 14 times the distance between Earth and the moon.
Nasa has labelled the asteroid, which about 200 meters (660ft) wide by 400 meters (1,310ft) long, as ‘potentially hazardous’.
For comparison, the Empire State Building is 381 meters (1,250ft) tall.
The asteroid was caught flying close range by a giant radio telescope called the Arecibo Observatory.
Dr Edgard Rivera-Valentín, a planetary scientist with the Universities Space Research Association who studies data from
The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, told the Business Insider: ‘The peanut shape comes from the fact that it is a contact
binary where the two parts [of asteroids] could not successfully orbit each other and fell back together.
One in six asteroids can be classed as contact binary objects, according to Dr Rivera-Valentín.
Dr Rivera-Valentín recording the activity of asteroids such as 2015 BN509 can tell us more about the likelihood of an object hitting earth.
He said: ‘Arecibo goes beyond acting as a fortune teller, we can characterize these objects.
‘We can study their size, shape, spin state, composition, and near-surface geology.’
‘An asteroid impact, unlike other natural catastrophes, can actually be avoided.
‘The data from Arecibo can be used by Nasa to inform a planetary defence mission.’
NASA set up a planetary defence department to the tackle threats posed by near-Earth objects (NEOs) last year.
Each year, roughly 1,500 NEOs are identified, and Nasa has already identified more than 90 per cent of NEOs larger than 1 kilometre.
The US space agency has now proposed building an infra-red space telescope called NEOCam to help locate more NEOs.
‘The NEOCAM project is working to identify activities that could be done this year that would reduce the technical, schedule, and cost risk of a future mission,’ said David Schurr, the deputy director of Nasa’s planetary science program.