Saturday, May 18, 2013

Another Massive Asteroid Flying by Earth on May 31

Asteroid 1998 QE2
Asteroid 1998 QE2 will make its closest pass to Earth on May 31 at 1:59 p.m. PDT. As it's 1.7 miles long, this could be an ELE (Extinction Level Event) if it impacted Earth.  Fortunately, it will miss us since at its closest approach the asteroid will still be 3.6 million miles from our planet (approximately 15 times the distance between the Earth and the moon).  It's next close approach won't be until 2119.

Due to its composition, and that it's covered in a sooty substance, scientists think this may be comet that flew too close to the Sun.  However, Scientists are not sure where this unusually large space rock, which was discovered 15 years ago, originated from.   One theory suggests that it might also have leaked out of the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

PHOTOS: Hubble's brilliant images of space

According to a JPL release, we will know more after the asteroid comes closer to Earth.  Scientists will use the Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, Calif., and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico to get a better look at it from May 30 to June 9.

"With radar we can transform an object from a point of light into a small world with its own characteristics," Lance Benner, JPL's principal investigator for Goldstone radar observations, said in a statement. Using the powerful radar antenna, the asteroid will be close enough to see features as small as 12 feet.

PHOTOS: Meteor rocks Russians

Considering the number of asteroids flying by, or in a few cases blowing up in the atmosphere, one starts wondering how many are headed our way in this vastness of space.

"We don't need to panic, but we do need to pay attention," said Amy Mainzer, who tracks near-Earth objects at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.
"This is a really big asteroid, similar in size to the one that killed off the dinosaurs, and it's getting very close to us," said . "Fortunately we've been tracking its orbit very carefully so we know with great certainty it won't hit us." she said.

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