Nope, it’s not a peanut. That’s Asteroid 2006 DP14.

The Goldstone, California, unit of the Deep Space Network made a close examination of 2006 DP14 while the asteroid drifted past earth at a distance of 4.2 million kilometers on February 11, 2014.  The asteroid’s closest approach to Earth occurred on February 10th, 2014, at a distance of about 2.4 million kilometers.

This asteroid was discovered on Feb. 23, 2006, by LINEAR; the Minor Planet Center has classified 2006 DP14 as a “Potentially Hazardous Asteroid.”  Minimum Orbit Intersection Distance (MOID) is defined as ‘the distance between the closest points of the osculating orbits of two bodies’.  Objects with an AU less than .05 are classified as potentially hazardous, and 2006 DP14’s MOID is 0.0150 AU.

Delay-Doppler radar imaging revealed that the asteroid is about 1,300 feet (400 meters) long and 660 feet (200 meters) wide. It is shaped somewhat like a big peanut – the asteroid is of a type known as a “contact binary” because it has two large lobes on either end that appear to be in contact. The asteroid’s period of rotation is about six hours.  The data were obtained over an interval of 2.5 hours as the asteroid completed about half a revolution.

Goldstone’s antennas consist of one 34-meter-diameter High Efficiency antenna, three 34-meter Beam Waveguide antennas, one 26-meter antenna and one 70-meter antenna.  On the 26-meter antenna, the X-Y mount allows the antenna to point low on the horizon to pick up the fast-moving Earth orbiters as soon as they rise into view. The maximum tracking speed is three degrees per second.  The 26-meter antennas were originally built to support the manned Apollo missions to the moon, which took place between 1967 and 1975.  The 70-meter antenna is the most sensitive due to the dish size, and can track objects further away than any other individual unit.  All of the Deep Space Network antennas are multitasked for telemetry, spacecraft command, and multiple astronomical applications.



Lisa M.A. Winters
Lisa M.A. Winters