Near mile-wide asteroid with its own moon to pass by Earth

Various views of 1999 KW4 and its moon. NASA

Various views of 1999 KW4 and its moon. NASA

Two ninety-second exposures of asteroid 1999 KW4 on its way to a close approach.

NASA calculate it could have a diameter as large as three kilometres wide, or almost two miles, which would make the space rock capable of mass destruction.

It's called a bianary system, because there are two asteroids that are gravitationally bound together.

The object has come relatively close to Earth several times in the last century, and will get even closer with its next approach in May 2036.

The asteroid was first discovered by the Lincoln Laboratory's Near Earth Asteroid Research survey (LINEAR) in Socorro, New Mexico, according to NASA. The larger one is just under a mile in diameter and its companion asteroid "moon" is about a third of that size. That distance is roughly 13.5 times further away than our own moon.

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These big rocks have been frequent flyers in our planet's neighborhood for a long time. Due to the southern declinations, 1999 KW4 is observable at Goldstone four days before it enters the beam at Arecibo. "This trend exists from at least [the year] 1600 [to] 2500".

One astronomical unit measures approximately 93 million miles (149.6 million km) - the distance from the Earth to the Sun. They do this by sending radio waves at the asteroid and measuring the waves that bounce off.

EarthSky reported that during the space rocks' closest approach, they'll be most visible in the Southern Hemisphere, appearing as fast-moving shadows against stars in the constellation Puppis.

During its closest approach the asteroid will have more favorable viewing conditions in the southern hemisphere before it potentially becomes more visible in the northern by May 27. The asteroid will best be seen in North American skies between the constellations Hydra and Leo.

NASA said that its Planetary Defense Coordination Office will continue to closely monitor the asteroids.

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