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Passing asteroid MOONS the HUMAN RACE

BL86 buzz-by revealed a travelling companion

Space-watchers peering at the fly-by asteroid 2004 BL86 will have missed a detail that NASA caught: the flying mountain has its own moon.

Future discoveries excluded, BL86 is expected to be the Earth's nearest-and-largest encounter for quite some years, until it approached its moon hadn't been seen.

As states, the rock is now receding from Earth at the respectable rate of 56,300 km/h (35,000 mph).

Using the 70 metre Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, NASA JPL scientists caught and animated the images of the 325-metre-across BL86 and its small-but-still-significant 70 metre moon.

NASA notes that about 16 per cent of asteroids bigger than 200 metres are binaries, with a handful living in a ménage-à-trois.

BL86 won't come this close to Earth again for “at least the next two centuries”, NASA reckons. ®

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