Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Tiny asteroid in sights for capture

Astronomers have identified an asteroid small enough to be potentially suitable for NASA's mission to capture such a body.

NASA plans to use a robotic spacecraft to either net a small asteroid or grab a rock off a larger one, before dragging the body into lunar orbit for study. Michael Mommert at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and his colleagues studied the asteroid known as 2011 MD using the infrared camera on NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The team estimated the rocky body to be just 6 metres across and remarkably porous — made up of around 65% empty space, like a pile of rubble.

The mass and density of 2011 MD make it a valid candidate for a mission that grabs a whole asteroid, the third candidate identified so far.

Astrophys. J. Lett. 789, L22 (2014)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Tiny asteroid in sights for capture. Nature 511, 9 (2014).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing