New Horizons Tracks an Asteroid
Date: 12 Jun 2006
The two "spots" in this image are a composite of two images of asteroid 2002 JF56 taken on 11 and 12 June 2006, with the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) component of the New Horizons Ralph imager. In the bottom image, taken when the asteroid was about 3.36 million km (2.1 million miles) away from the spacecraft, 2002 JF56 appears like a dim star. At top, taken at a distance of about 1.34 million km (833,000 miles), the object is more than a factor of six brighter. The best current, estimated diameter of the asteroid is approximately 2.5 km.
The asteroid observation was a chance for the New Horizons team to test the spacecraft's ability to track a rapidly moving object. On 13 June New Horizons came to within about 102,000 km of the small asteroid, when the spacecraft was nearly 368 million km (228 million miles) from the sun and about 273 million km (170 million miles) from Earth.
Last Update: 6 Dec 2011 (AMB)
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute