The Arecibo Observatory Planetary Radar captured images of Near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon at the highest resolution. The new high-resolution images indicated that its size is massive than imagined.
The images were captured as it approached close to the Earth in December. The new resolution images indicated that the asteroid was roughly ball-shaped. It had a massive depression of several hundred meters long near to its equator along with dark, circular feature around one of its poles.
The radar images also pointed out that the size of the Phaethon was 0.6 miles larger than previously imagined. The group of scientists predicted that its diameter would be 3.6 miles.
“These new observations of Phaethon show it may be similar in shape to asteroid Bennu, the target of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, but more than 1,000 Bennus could fit inside of Phaethon,” said Patrick Taylor, a Universities Space Research Association (USRA), Columbia, Maryland, scientist and group leader for Planetary Radar at Arecibo Observatory, in a statement.
Commenting on the dark feature, he added there is a probability that the dark feature might be a radar or some topographic depression which was not able to reflect the radar beam back to the Earth.
Referring to the position of Phaethon, scientists revealed it is so near to Earth’s orbit and would to be classified as “Potentially Hazardous” by NASA.
The Planetary Defense Coordination Office of NASA monitors potentially hazardous space rocks using radar. It determines the shape, size, rotation, and other characteristics of the asteroids. Moreover, it calculates their orbital path.