1566 Icarus

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1566 Icarus
1566 Icarus orbit.gif
Discovered by Walter Baade
Palomar Observatory
Discovery date June 27, 1949
Named after
1949 MA
Apollo asteroid,
Mercury-crosser asteroid,
Venus-crosser asteroid,
Mars-crosser asteroid
Orbital characteristics[1]
Epoch 2014-Dec-09 (JD 2457000.5)
Aphelion 1.96932 AU
Perihelion 0.18652 AU
1.07792 AU
Eccentricity 0.82696
1.12 a (408.77 d)
Inclination 22.82786°
Physical characteristics
Dimensions 1.27 km[2]
Mass 2.9×1012 kg
Mean density
2 ? g/cm³
0.000 39 m/s²
0.000 74 km/s
2.273 h[1]
(0.094 71 d)
Albedo 0.4[3]
Temperature ~242 K
Spectral type

1566 Icarus (/ˈɪkərəs/ IK-ə-rəs) is an Apollo asteroid (a subclass of near-Earth asteroid) that at perihelion comes closer to the Sun than Mercury, i.e. it is a Mercury-crossing asteroid. It is also a Venus and Mars-crosser. It is named after Icarus of Greek mythology, who flew too close to the Sun. It was discovered on 27 June 1949 by Walter Baade at Palomar Observatory.[1] From 1949 until the discovery of 3200 Phaethon in 1983, it was known as the asteroid that passed closest to the Sun.

Icarus makes close approaches to Earth in June at intervals of 9, 19, or 28 years. Rarely, it comes as close as 0.042482 AU (6,355,200 km; 3,948,900 mi) (16 lunar distances), as it did on 14 June 1968. During this approach, Icarus became the first minor planet to be observed using radar, with measurements obtained at the Haystack Observatory[4] and the Goldstone Tracking Station.[5] As of 2015, the last close approach was on 16 June 2015, at 0.05383 AU (8,053,000 km; 5,004,000 mi).[6] Before that, the previous close approach was on 11 June 1996, at 0.10119 AU (15,138,000 km; 9,406,000 mi), almost 40 times as far as the Moon.[6] The next notably close approach will be on 13 June 2043, at 0.0586 AU (8,770,000 km; 5,450,000 mi) from Earth.[6]

1566 Icarus is being studied to better understand general relativity, solar oblateness, and Yarkovsky drift.[7] Perihelion precession, caused by general relativity, in the case of Icarus is 10.05 arcseconds per Julian century.[7]

Project Icarus[edit]

For other uses, see Project Icarus.

"Project Icarus" was conducted in the spring of 1967. It was an assignment by Professor Paul Sandorff for his group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate students in a systems engineering class to design a way to deflect or destroy 1566 Icarus in the case that it was found to be on a collision course with planet Earth, using rockets.[8][9][10] Time magazine ran an article on the endeavor in June 1967[9] and the following year the student report was published as a book.[8][10][11]

In the course of their study the students visited the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, where they were so impressed with the Vertical Assembly Building that they wrote of "the awesome reality" that had "completely erased" their doubts over using the technology associated with the Apollo program and Saturn rockets.[12]

The report later served as the basis and inspiration for the 1979 science fiction film Meteor.[10][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "1566 Icarus (1949 MA)". JPL Small-Body Database. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. SPK-ID: 2001566. Retrieved 2011-09-02. 
  2. ^ a b Mahapatra, Pravas; Ostro, Steven; Benner, Lance (1999). "Recent radar observations of asteroid 1566 Icarus" (PDF). Planetary and Space Science 47 (8–9): 987–995. Bibcode:1999P&SS...47..987M. doi:10.1016/S0032-0633(99)00015-X. 
  3. ^ Veeder, G. J.; et al. (1989). "Radiometry of near-earth asteroids". The Astronomical Journal 97 (4): 1211–9. Bibcode:1989AJ.....97.1211V. doi:10.1086/115064. PMID 11538320. 
  4. ^ Pettengill, G.H.; Shapiro, I.I.; Ash, M.E.; Ingalls, R.P.; Rainville, L.P.; Smith, W.B.; Stone, M.L. (1969). "Radar observations of Icarus". Icarus 10 (3): 432–435. Bibcode:1969Icar...10..432P. doi:10.1016/0019-1035(69)90101-8. ISSN 0019-1035. 
  5. ^ Goldstein, R. M. (1968). "Radar Observations of Icarus". Science 162 (3856): 903–4. Bibcode:1968Sci...162..903G. doi:10.1126/science.162.3856.903. PMID 17769079. 
  6. ^ a b c "JPL Close-Approach Data: 1566 Icarus (1949 MA)" (last observation: 2014-06-24; arc: 64.99 years). Retrieved 2014-10-14. 
  7. ^ a b "Asteroids with high perihelion precession rates". UCLA. Retrieved 2015-06-19. 
  8. ^ a b Kleiman, Louis A., Project Icarus: an MIT Student Project in Systems Engineering, Cambridge, Massachusetts : MIT Press, 1968
  9. ^ a b "Systems Engineering: Avoiding an Asteroid", Time magazine, June 16, 1967.
  10. ^ a b c Day, Dwayne A., "Giant bombs on giant rockets: Project Icarus", The Space Review, Monday, July 5, 2004.
  11. ^ Project Icarus, MIT Report No. 13, MIT Press 1968, edited by Louis A. Kleiman. "Interdepartmental Student Project in Systems Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Spring Term, 1967"; reissued 1979.
  12. ^ David S. F. Portree. "MIT Saves the World: Project Icarus (1967)". Wired Science. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  13. ^ "MIT Course precept for movie", The Tech, MIT, October 30, 1979

External links[edit]