On September 2nd, Dr. Michael Nolan presented a Solar System Ambassadors and Museum Alliance Professional Development Training Webinar titled “Twenty Years of Bennu: From Arecibo to Orbit (and Home Again).” The webinar highlighted the importance of the Arecibo Observatory for characterizing the near-Earth asteroid (101955) Bennu, the target of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. The spacecraft, currently in orbit around Bennu, is slated to pick up a sample of the asteroid next month and send the piece back to Earth by September 2023. + Read More


The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico is following an asteroid approaching Earth this week and while it poses no threat, it appears to know our planet is facing a pandemic. “The small-scale topographic features such as hills and ridges on one end of asteroid 1998 OR2 are fascinating scientifically,” says Anne Virkki, head of Planetary Radar at the observatory. “But since we are all thinking about COVID-19 these features make it look like 1998 OR2 remembered to wear a mask.” The National Science Foundation facility, which is managed by the University of Central Florida, has a team of experts who monitors near-Earth asteroids. This asteroid is in a special class of near-Earth asteroids called Potentially Hazardous Objects (PHOs).

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E. G. Rivera-Valentin, P. A. Taylor, A. Virkki, and B. Aponte-Hernandez report that Arecibo (2380 MHz, 12.6 cm) delay-Doppler radar images obtained on 2017 January 20 and 23 reveal near-Earth asteroid (163693) Atira is a binary system. Visible range extents of the components in images with 150 m/pixel resolution suggest a primary up to 4.8 ± 0.5 km in diameter and a secondary 1.0 ± 0.3 km in diameter.

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