After a few months of downtime in connection with the liquidation of consequences of hurricane “Maria” the main radio telescope of the Arecibo Observatory and one of the most powerful radio telescopes in the world returned to its regular operating schedule and has already managed to get the best images of near-earth asteroid 3200 Phaeton, believed to be the source of one of the most powerful meteor showers – the Geminids.
The resulting images show that the asteroid has a spheroidal shape, and on its surface there is a concavity the size of at least several hundred meters, presumably a crater formed by the collision of an asteroid with some more compact celestial body. Observations of the asteroid were carried out on 17 December 2017 with a resolution of 75 meters per pixel.
“The new observations show the similarity of the Phaeton the asteroid Bennu which is the target of the spacecraft OSIRIS-Rex, owned by space Agency NASA. But the asteroid is about 10 times larger than last,” says Patrick Taylor, head of planetary studies, the Arecibo Observatory.
“Blackout on the surface of the asteroid may be an impact crater or some other form of topographic depression, but find it is certainly not yet possible, as this area does not reflect the signal in our telescope.”
New images taken by the Arecibo Observatory also suggests that the diameter of the Phaeton is about 6 kilometers, about 1 kilometer more than the earlier calculations. The asteroid is the second largest near-earth object falling under the classification of “potentially dangerous”. The level of risk is determined not only by size but also by the trajectory of the orbits of these celestial bodies towards the Earth.
Phaeton the asteroid was first discovered on 11 October 1983 infrared orbital Observatory IRAS. The last observation of the subject was carried out by the Arecibo Observatory from 15 th to 19 th Dec 2017. At the time of the nearest location relative to the Earth the asteroid was at a distance of 10 million kilometers, which is about 26.8 times more than the distance from the earth to the moon. The close approach of an asteroid with the Earth is not expected before the year 2093.
The Arecibo Observatory has one of the most powerful astronomical radar systems in the world. As a result of hurricane 4-category, the strongest on the island in 1928, the radio telescope received minor structural damage. A few days after the last cyclone, it began to radio astronomy observations, but planetary radar observations, require high power and using diesel generators, the Observatory staff were able to recover only in early December.
“Thanks to its unique capabilities of Arecibo is a very important scientific tool for the entire astronomical society and a critical part of the system of planetary security,” said Joan Schmelz, who served as Director of the Arecibo Observatory.
“We have made every effort to return the telescope back into operation after a devastating hurricane “Marie”, passed over Puerto Rico.”
The telescope is the Arecibo Observatory used for observing the hundreds of different asteroids. When these small natural objects remaining after the formation of our Solar system are relatively close to the Ground radar system review of deep space best suited for the study of their sizes, shapes, surfaces, densities, and also for a more accurate calculation of their orbital trajectories.