Enjoying EarthSky? Subscribe.

208,753 subscribers and counting ...

EarthSky // Today's Image Release Date: Jan 27, 2015

Best images! Asteroid 2004 BL86, as it swept near Earth

Images and video of asteroid 2004 BL86, which swept about 3 times the moon’s distance from Earth on Monday, January 26.

A video still of asteroid 2004 BL86 and its newly discovered moon from Goldstone Solar System Radar.  The image is from last night (January 25).  Image via Slooh.com.

A video still of asteroid 2004 BL86 and its newly discovered moon from Goldstone Solar System Radar. Image via Slooh.com.

A large asteroid, called 2004 BL86 by astronomers, swept just outside 3 lunar distances of Earth on January 26, 2014. It’s the closest asteroid of its size known to pass Earth between now and 2027. It was close enough that observers on Earth could see it fleeing in front of the fixed star background. It was close enough that observers noticed a moon orbiting the asteroid! Here are some of the best images so far.

The movie of the asteroid’s pass – above – is from Alessandro Marchini of the Osservatorio Astronomico Universit├á di Siena, in Italy. He emailed EarthSky with word of this video, saying:

… A video of the ride of asteroid 2004 BL86 through the stars. It’s the animation of 71 frames just captured in 16 minutes by our telescope, with the asteroid crossing our field of view (40 arc minutes). Taken from 20:28 to 20:44 UTC.

Telescope Maksutov-Cassegrain 30cm f/5.6, CCD Sbig STL-6303, field of view 58×39 arcmin.

Thank you, Alessandro!

The two videos above are really cool. They relate to the announcement on the afternoon of January 26 that asteroid 2004 BL86 has a moon! Astronomers discovered the small moon this past weekend, and the discovery was confirmed by scientists working with NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California. The radar images show the primary asteroid as 1,100 feet (325 meters) across with a small moon 230 feet (70 meters) across.

Read more about the moon for asteroid 2004 BL86

What fun!  A moon for asteroid 2004 BL86!

What fun! A moon for asteroid 2004 BL86!

Peter Hawman in Athens, Georgia wrote:

View larger. | Peter Hawman in Athens, Georgia wrote: “Captured Asteroid 2004 BL86 in my front yard early on the 27th after the clouds parted.”

Van Macatee in Rutledge, Georgia caught asteroid 2004 BL86 as it swept near the Beehive star cluster on the morning of January 27, 2015.

Van Macatee in Rutledge, Georgia caught asteroid 2004 BL86 as it swept near the Beehive star cluster on the morning of January 27, 2015.

Scott Ferguson in Florida caught the asteroid sweeping past the famous Beehive star cluster in the constellation Cancer.  Thanks, Scott!

Scott Ferguson in Florida also caught the asteroid sweeping past the famous Beehive star cluster. Thanks, Scott!

Cool!  The passage of asteroid 2004 BL86 - passing closer today than any large asteroid of its size until 2027.  Jean Paul Mertens just sent it and said it was seen through the telescope of Slooh.com in Chile.

Jean Paul Mertens sent this nice animation of the asteroid’s passage. He said it was seen through the telescope of Slooh.com in Chile.

Bottom line: Images and video of asteroid 2004 BL86, which swept about 3 times the moon’s distance from Earth on Monday, January 26.

Want to see your photos on EarthSky?
Upload or share them today on Facebook or Google+.