Asteroid 1998 QE2 1.7 Miles (2.7 kilometers) or Nine Queen Elizabeth 2 Ship-Lengths in Size
The Closest Approach on May 31
The closest approach of the asteroid occurs on May 31 at 1:59 p.m. Pacific (4:59 p.m. Eastern / 20:59 UTC).
This is the closest approach the asteroid will make to Earth for at least the next two centuries.
Asteroid 1998 QE2 was discovered on Aug. 19, 1998, by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program near Socorro, New Mexico.
The asteroid, which is believed to be about 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) or nine Queen Elizabeth 2 ship-lengths in size, is not named after that 12-decked, transatlantic-crossing flagship for the Cunard Line.
Asteroid 1998 QE2 was discovered on Aug. 19, 1998, by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program near Socorro, New Mexico
Instead, the name is assigned by the NASA-supported Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., which gives each newly discovered asteroid a provisional designation starting with the year of first detection, along with an alphanumeric code indicating the half-month it was discovered, and the sequence within that half-month
Radar images from the Goldstone antenna could resolve features on the asteroid as small as 12 feet (3.75 meters) across, even from 4 million miles away.
“It is tremendously exciting to see detailed images of this asteroid for the first time,” said Benner.
”With radar we can transform an object from a point of light into a small world with its own unique set of characteristics.
The orbit of asteroid 1998 QE2. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
In a real sense, radar imaging of near-Earth asteroids is a fundamental form of exploring a whole class of solar system objects.”
Asteroids, which are always exposed to the sun, can be shaped like almost anything under it. Those previously imaged by radar and spacecraft have looked like dog bones, bowling pins, spheroids, diamonds, muffins, and potatoes.
To find out what 1998 QE2 looks like, stay tuned. Between May 30 and June 9, radar astronomers using NASA’s 230-foot-wide (70 meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, are planning an extensive campaign of observations.
The two telescopes have complementary imaging capabilities that will enable astronomers to learn as much as possible about the asteroid during its brief visit near Earth.
NASA places a high priority on tracking asteroids and protecting our home planet from them. In fact, the U.S. has the most robust and productive survey and detection program for discovering near-Earth objects.
To date, U.S. assets have discovered over 98 percent of the known NEOs.
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