Subaru Telescope Captures Images of Near-Earth Asteroid 1998 KY26

Astronomers using the Subaru Telescope have produced spectacular images of 1998 KY26, a future asteroid target of JAXA’s Hayabusa-2 spacecraft.

This image, taken with the Hyper Suprime-Cam on the Subaru Telescope, shows the near-Earth asteroid 1998 KY26. Image credit: National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

1998 KY26 is a nearly spherical and potentially metallic asteroid, classified as a near-Earth object of the Apollo group.

The object was discovered on June 2, 1998, by the Spacewatch survey at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

1998 KY26 has a diameter of approximately 30 m (100 feet) and a rotational period of 10.7 min.

It orbits the Sun at a distance of 1-1.5 AU (astronomical units) once every 500 days.

1998 KY26 is one of the two targets for up-close study by the Hayabusa-2 extended mission.

“After returning its reentry capsule to Earth, Hayabusa-2 departed for a new target object — a small asteroid known as 1998 KY26,” said Dr. Michitoshi Yoshida, director of the Subaru Telescope and an astronomer at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

“This will be the first mission to this small asteroid, so it is very meaningful both in terms of planetary science and planetary defense.”

On December 10, 2020, 1998 KY26 was photographed in the direction of the constellation Gemini as a 25.4-magnitude point of light.

“We successfully photographed the next target asteroid for Hayabusa-2,” Dr. Yoshida said.

“We hope that these data will facilitate Hayabusa-2’s new mission.”

“These Subaru Telescope observations will not only become very important data for Hayabusa-2’s extended mission, they will also give a boost to future missions,” said Hayabusa-2 mission manager Dr. Makoto Yoshikawa, a researcher in JAXA’s Institute for Space and Astronautical Science.

“We are grateful to everyone at the Subaru Telescope.”

The astronomers reported their observations of 1998 KY26 in the Minor Planet Electronic Circular.