1998 KY26



Diameter (km)


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1998 KY26 was observed by 70-meter Goldstone, antenna of NASA's Deep Space Network.

Asteroid 1998 KY26, was observed June 2-8, 1998, shortly after it was discovered and as it passed 800,000 kilometers (half a million miles) from Earth,or about twice the distance between Earth and the moon. It is the smallest solar system object ever studied in detail. This asteroid is smaller than the radar instruments that were used to observe it.

The asteroid's rotation period was calculated at just 10.7 minutes, compared to 24 hours for Earth and at least several hours for the approximately 1,000 asteroids measured to date.

1998 KY26's color and radar reflectivity showed similarities to carbonaceous chondrites, primordial meteorites which formed during the origin of the solar system, and unlike any rocks formed on Earth. They contain complex organic compounds as well as 10 percent to 20 percent water. Some carbonaceous chondrites contain amino acids and nucleic acids, which are the building blocks of proteins and DNA, and hence, are of interest to scientists trying to unravel the origins of life.

The solar system is thought to contain about 10 million asteroids this small in orbits that cross Earth's, and about 1 billion in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. However, only a few dozen of these tiny asteroids have ever been found and, until now, hardly anything was known about the nature of these objects.

While much larger near-Earth asteroids could pose a long-term collision hazard, 1998 KY26's size makes it harmless if it were on a collision course. The asteroid would most likely explode in the upper atmosphere and its fragments would fall harmlessly to Earth. Moreover, 1998 KY26 is in an orbit whose shape and low inclination with respect to the ecliptic plane make it unusually easy to intercept.

Images of 1998 KY26

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1998 KY26

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Last updated: March 15, 2002.