Asteroid 2012 LZ1 Bigger than Predicted

First Posted: Jun 26, 2012 06:53 AM EDT

The near Earth Asteroid that popped onto the astronomer's radar on the night of June 10-11 was supposed to fly by the earth on June 14. This hazardous asteroid was spotted by Rob McNaught and his colleagues, who were peering through the Uppsala Schmidt telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia.

The asteroid that drifted by coming within 14 lunar distances from Earth leaving it undamaged was about 1650 feet wide. Now that we are safe from this impact, what still remains a concern is the late detection of 2012 LZ1.  Why the asteroid was spotted just four days before its closest approach.  

With the new observations made, one can measure the level of damage that would have occurred. The observations were made using the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. It was indicated that LZ1 is bigger than what was predicted. Sources suggest that it is about a kilometre across, whereas it was thought to be half that size before these observations.

The Arecibo team has determined that 2012 LZ1's surface is really dark, reflecting only 2-4 percent of the light that hits it, which contributed to the underestimated initial optical observations. Accurate measurements of the asteroid's physical size was made by measuring the signals that bounced back to the radio antennae.

Discovery News quoted Arecibo Observatory's Ellen Howell as saying in a statement, "This object turned out to be quite a bit bigger than we expected, which shows how important radar observations can be, because we're still learning a lot about the population of asteroids."

The follow up observations have also helped astronomers make accurate measurements of the asteroid's trajectory and other orbital characteristics. The astronomers have deduced that Earth will be safe from being hit by 2012 LZ1 for at least 750 years using Arecibo.

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