One of the surprising things about 2017 YE5 is that the two space rocks that make up this binary asteroid (as it's called) are the same size, each measuring about 3,000 feet (900 meters) across. This is only the fourth "equal mass" binary near-Earth asteroid ever detected, consisting of two objects almost identical in size, orbiting each other.
The asteroid was first spotted by the Morocco Oukaimeden Sky Survey in December of 2017. Then, on June 21, 2018, the asteroid passed the closest to Earth it would for at least the next 170 years, at about 3.7 million miles away, about 16 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
The observations revealed two distinct lobes, but the asteroid " s orientation was such that scientists could not see if the two bodies were separate or joined.
One unexpected property of 2017 YE5 is that the two objects are as dark as charcoal, yet one object is much more radar reflective than the other - something not seen in any other of 50 binary asteroids studied by radar. Together, they would study the asteroid using a bi-static radar configuration, in which radar signals are bounced off the asteroid by Arecibo and received by GBO.
Within two days both observatories declared that 2017 YE5 was the rare binary asteroid they'd been looking for.
The new observations obtained between June 21 and 26 indicate that the two objects revolve around each other once every 20 to 24 hours.
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Asteroid 2017 YE5 is remarkable (some would say downright weird) for several reasons.
Despite being size twins, the asteroids probably have a different surface composition, density or surface roughness (or more than one of those factors), since their individual reflectivity differed.
Three different radio telescopes observed the asteroid as it came close to Earth. When the asteroid was originally discovered, in December, scientists thought it was smaller.
The observation also proved the asteroids to have a distinct gap between them.
The asteroid was discovered three radar telescopes.
In addition to the resources NASA puts into understanding asteroids, the PDCO also partners with other USA government agencies, university-based astronomers, and space science institutes across the country, often with grants, interagency transfers and other contracts from NASA. To get a more comprehensive view of the potential duo, the Arecibo team collaborated with scientists at West Virginia's Green Bank Observatory (GBO).