Emily LakdawallaNov 16, 2011

Our friendly neighborhood asteroid, 2005 YU55 (an animation)

Last week JPL released two animations of asteroid 2005 YU55 made from the radar data acquired by Goldstone's 70-meter radio dish. Both of the animations were made from data acquired on November 7, the same day I toured Goldstone -- the second was an update of the first. Here's the second animation, which contains 28 frames and seems to cover not quite a quarter of one 18-hour rotation period.

As usual, I found it impossible to leave the data alone; I had to produce my own version. I made it an animated GIF to make it easier to watch the animation over and over. I stretched the images horizontally to reduce their apparent geometric distortion. And I adjusted the levels of all the images so that they have similar brightness and contrast. It is really cool to see bright features rotating smoothly around -- these data are much clearer than I am accustomed to. There are some "sparkles" that might be noise, but try picking one bright spot and seeing if you can track it through the animation. Some of them fade in and out of brightness over the course of several frames, indicating that they are real features, possibly boulders sticking up off the surface that strongly reflected the radar signal back at Goldstone. Cool!

Asteroid 2005 YU55 (animation)
Asteroid 2005 YU55 (animation) This 28-frame movie of asteroid 2005 YU55 was generated from data obtained by NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar on Nov. 7, 2011.Image: NASA / JPL / modified by Emily Lakdawalla

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