A big (really big) asteroid called 1998 QE2 is passing by Earth today

May 31, 2013

A really big asteroid (it has its own moon) is passing by earth today.


These first radar images of asteroid 1998 QE2 were taken when the asteroid was about 3.75 million miles from Earth. The small white dot at lower right is the moon, or satellite, orbiting the asteroid. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR)

Two things:

1) No, you don’t need to freak out. It won’t get closer than about 3.6 million miles to our “pale blue dot” (that’s 15 times the distance between the Earth and the moon, according to NASA).

2) Yes, it raises the question, yet again, of what we’re doing to make sure that, if it had a different trajectory, we’d be able to deflect it.


The asteroid is called 1998 QE2 (Fun fact: June 2 is the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s (QEII) coronation. And another fun fact from Capital Weather Gang: no, the asteroid is not named after her royal highness). It was discovered on Aug. 19 in, you guessed it, 1998.

NASA estimates that the asteroid is roughly 1.7 miles wide (nine times larger than a cruise ship and smaller than the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs is thought to have been ) and has its own moon (a fact that prompts me to keep thinking over and over again, “That’s no moon…”). Space.com is posting a live feed of the flyby event, scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. Live video is also being offered by Slooh Space Telescope and the Virtual Telescope Project. Here’s a recording of 1998 QE2 traveling through space:

Now, you know it’s a somewhat ho-hum event when NASA starts its informational video on this flyby with “here we go again.”

That said, it has significance for scientific study, according to NASA. And the meteor that blew up over Russia and the nearby passage of 2012 DA14 terrified and fascinated earthlings. All of that said, asteroid 1998 QE2 isn’t that close, but is still nearby relative to other familiar objects in space. Still, don’t freak out. Seriously.


The orbit of asteroid 1998 QE2. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

READ: Huge asteroid 1998QE2 to zip by Earth, offer skywatchers, scientists a glimpse

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UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

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UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

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Emi Kolawole | May 31, 2013