Nasa has revealed some astonishingly detailed images of a huge near-Earth asteroid nicknamed "the Beast".
The 21 pictures were produced using an Earth-based radar, when the asteroid 2014 HQ124 was between 864,000 and 902,000 miles from the Earth on Sunday.
They manage to show the texture and structure of the asteroid, and represent the most detailed pictures ever taken.
The asteroid is about 1,200 feet wide, and appears to have once been two rocks that have now fused together.
"This may be a double object, or 'contact binary,' consisting of two objects that form a single asteroid with a lobed shape," said Lance Benner of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The asteroid whizzed past Earth at 31,000 mph, but never posed a danger to Earth. If one this size did crash into our planet, it would be devastating on a city-destroying scale.
"To obtain the new views, researchers paired the 230-foot (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, with two other radio telescopes, one at a time. Using this technique, the Goldstone antenna beams a radar signal at an asteroid and the other antenna receives the reflections. The technique dramatically improves the amount of detail that can be seen in radar images.ADVERTISEMENT
To image 2014 HQ124, the researchers first paired the large Goldstone antenna with the 1,000-foot (305-meter) Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. They later paired the large Goldstone dish with a smaller companion, a 112-foot (34-meter) antenna, located about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away.
A recent equipment upgrade at Arecibo enabled the two facilities to work in tandem to obtain images with this fine level of detail for the first time."