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Space Thursday, May 30th 2013 at 4:30 pm

Asteroid 1998 QE2 Will Come So Close Tomorrow, Yet So Far Away

There's a giant asteroid that's going to be passing very near the Earth, but don't be alarmed. You'll be fine.

1998qe2

A very large asteroid will pass very close to the Earth on Friday, but it’s nothing to worry about. It’s only close in astronomical terms, and poses no threat to our planet. So what’s all the fuss about? The asteroid, dubbed 1998 QE2, will be a prime target for radar telescopes to study. Those of us with non-radar telescopes might be lucky enough to catch a dim glimpse.

1998 QE2 will make its closest pass to Earth tomorrow at 4:59 PM EDT at a distance of 3.6 million miles, or about 15 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Again — there’s no danger here. 1998 QE2 is big enough that if it were going to hit the Earth this whole post would be in caps, and I’d be screaming while I type it. That’s because the asteroid is about 1.7 miles wide.

NASA released a ScienceCast video today explaining the situation:

If that doesn’t answer all your questions about the asteroid, Dr. Bill Cooke of the Marshall Space Flight Center Meteoroid Environment Office will be answering questions on NASA’s website tonight from 8:00 – 10:00 PM EDT. You can join the chat by following this link.

At least two radar telescopes will be trained on 1998 QE2 tomorrow — NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, California and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. They’ll both be examining 1998 QE2 not just at its closest pass, but will continue to do so through June 9th. They hope to get more detailed information about the asteroid, including detailed high-resolution images of surface details.

(via JPL and NASA, image via NASA/JPL Caltech)

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