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January 4, 2012

Sunlight Spawns Binary Asteroids (Image 2)

A reconstructed orbit of binary asteroid 1999 KW4, as seen from the Earth using models estimated from radar observations taken in 2006. This is probably an asteroid that formed by the YORP (Yarkovsky-O'Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack) effect--the imbalance between sunlight absorbed on one side of an out-of-round asteroid and heat radiated on the other, which makes it spin. This work, published in the journal Nature, reveals that some of these binary asteroids escape from each other shortly after they're formed.

To learn more about this research, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (AST 08-07468), see the University of California, Berkeley, news story "Sunlight Spawns Many Binary and Divorced Binary Asteroids." (Date of Image: August 2010) [See related image Here.]

Credit: NASA/JPL

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