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New Horizons Tracks an Asteroid
Release Date: June 12, 2006
The two "spots" in this image are a composite of two images of asteroid 2002 JF56 taken on June 11 and June 12, 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 kilometers (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 kilometers (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 kilometers.
The asteroid observation was a chance for the New Horizons team to test the spacecraft's ability to track a rapidly moving object. On June 13 New Horizons came to within about 102,000 kilometers of the small asteroid, when the spacecraft was nearly 368 million kilometers (228 million miles) from the Sun and about 273 million kilometers (170 million miles) from Earth.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute