Asteroid 2015 TC25 is one of the smallest near-earth objects (NEO) to buzz the Earth and one of the brightest in the sky as well, and recent studies are giving insight into its structure.
In research published in November in the Astronomical Journal, scientists examining 2015 TC25, which measures six feet in diameter, suggested that its surface is similar to a rare type of reflective meteorite called aubrite, the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory said in a statement last week.
According to the university, aubrites consist of bright minerals, mostly silicates, which formed in an oxygen-free, basaltic environment at very high temperatures. The statement said that only one of every 1,000 meteorites that hit the Earth fall into this class.
"This is the first time we have optical, infrared and radar data on such a small asteroid, which is essentially a meteoroid," Vishnu Reddy, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona and an author of the study, said in a statement. "You can think of it as a meteorite floating in space that hasn't hit the atmosphere and made it to the ground — yet."
An asteroid is a large rocky body in space that orbits around the sun, while a meteoroid is a much smaller rock or particles in orbit around the sun, Universe Today noted. The smaller rock becomes a meteorite if it survives its fiery passage through the Earth's atmosphere and lands on Earth's surface, noted the website.
The University of Arizona states that asteroids made of fragments left over from the solar system's formation and mostly orbit the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Near-Earth asteroids are a subset that cross Earth's path, noted the university.
Researchers have found some 15,000 near-Earth asteroids so far, noted the university's statement.
"If we can discover and characterize asteroids and meteoroids this small, then we can understand the population of objects from which they originate: large asteroids, which have a much smaller likelihood of impacting Earth," Reddy said in the university's statement. "In the case of 2015 TC25, the likelihood of impacting Earth is fairly small."
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