The massive asteroid 1998 QE2 will pass 6.2 million kilometres (3.8 million miles) from the Earth on Friday, May 31st 2013 at 4:59pm EDT (20:59 UT.) We believe 1998 QE2 is as large as 9 times the size of the 12-decked cruise liner Queen Elizabeth II (QE2 :). A hypotethical impact from an asteroid this big would be catastrophic… but no worries this time. The passage is over 15 times as distant as the Earth’s Moon.
“QE 2″ is not an homage to England’s Queen Elizabeth II. Newfound asteroids are named according to an established alphanumeric scheme that lays out when it was discovered.
The asteroid will be cruising through the Hydra constellation on its way north into Libra on Friday 31th. You might actually be able to see it, if you happen to have access to a decent telescope as the asteroid will never top +10 magnitude – which is the general threshold for binocular viewing under dark skies. The asteroid will look like a tiny moving star-like point.
The official Nasa and ESA line is that our best form of defence against the potentially dangerous Near Earth Asteroids is still prayer…
- NASA Video
- How to spot 1998 QE2
- NASA’S WISE Mission Finds Lost Asteroid Family Members
- Watching for hazards: ESA opens asteroid centre
- AMS Meteor Terminology
Update May 30th, 2:32 PM Eastern: The asteroid has a moon! Here’s a stunning video from NASA’s JPL of the asteroid that reveals a satellite orbiting it.