Big and scary asteroid will luckily just make a flyby
It's 1.7 miles long. Its surface is covered in a sticky, black substance similar to the gunk at the bottom of a barbecue. If it impacted Earth it would probably result in global extinction. Good thing it's just making a flyby.
Asteroid 1998 QE2 will make its closest pass to Earth on May 31 at 1:59 p.m. PDT.
Scientists are not sure where this unusually large space rock, which was discovered 15 years ago, originated. But the mysterious sooty substance on its surface could indicate it may be a result of a comet that flew too close to the sun, said Amy Mainzer, who tracks near-Earth objects at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, Calif. It might also have leaked out of the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, she said.
We will know more after the asteroid zips closer to Earth and scientists using the Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, Calif., and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico can get a better look at it. Astronomers at both observatories plan to track it closely from May 30 to June 9.
At its closest approach the asteroid will still be 3.6 million miles from our planet (about 15 times the distance between the Earth and the moon), but it will be close enough for these powerful radar antennas to see features as small as 12 feet across.
“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.
There is no chance that asteroid 1998 QE2 could collide with Earth this go-around, and its next close approach won't be until 2119.
Still, Mainzer said the size of the asteroid, and its potential for mass destruction, should remind us that there are some scary things flying around in space.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Social Security’s $300M IT project doesn’t work
- Man told transit police the Boston Marathon bomber ‘was my best friend’
- Navy decides not to disturb peregrine falcons nesting on decommissioned aircraft carrier
- Massachusetts teen held in teacher’s slaying accused assaulting detention center worker
- Troubled childhoods may prompt men to volunteer for military service