Dark, massive asteroid to fly by Earth on May 31

May 24, 2013 by Deborah Netburn
Credit: NASA

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 is 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 , 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 between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, she said.

We will know more after the asteroid zips closer to Earth and scientists using the antenna in Goldstone, Calif., and the 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, according to a JPL release.

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 , said in a statement.

Asteroid 1998 QE2 will get no closer than about 3.6 million miles at time of closest approach on May 31 at 1:59 p.m. Pacific (4:59 p.m. Eastern). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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.

"This is a really big , similar in size to the one that killed off the dinosaurs, and it's getting very close to us," she said. "Fortunately we've been tracking its very carefully so we know with great certainty it won't hit us.

"We don't need to panic, but we do need to pay attention," she said.

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User comments : 9

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Egleton
2.7 / 5 (7) May 24, 2013
Right there is reason # 46 for ensuring that we colonise the L's.

http://en.wikiped...nization
topkill
1.5 / 5 (6) May 25, 2013
We can destroy all life on earth 100's of times over. We can level mountains to get coal to burn. Yet we've never put in the time or effort to even map all the objects that could wipe us out of existance, much less put in place a plan to blast it or even move it off a collision course.

When something finally does wipe our dumb asses off this mudball, we'll deserve it.
Neinsense99
1 / 5 (7) May 25, 2013
I wonder if there is a cult somewhere with members trying to catch a spaceship hiding behind it. The idea seems so strangely familiar....
210
1 / 5 (5) May 25, 2013
We can destroy all life on earth 100's of times over. We can level mountains to get coal to burn. Yet we've never put in the time or effort to even map all the objects that could wipe us out of existance, much less put in place a plan to blast it or even move it off a collision course.
does wipe our dumb asses off this mudball, we'll deserve it.

Nope, the children, don't deserve it. The peace loving and kind, the hard working and honourable don't deserve it, in fact they are one BIG reason to save the world. And the day may come that something we cant vaporize or move comes our way. To handle everything that is out there, we must master ourselves and everything down here, period.
Mapping spacial objects that can destroy us when new ones are being made every second, hummmm: OK! THIS will require our total racial energies and we will just have to learn to end war, disease, GREED, oops, My alarm clock just went off - what a wonderful dream I was having....
word-

dedereu
1 / 5 (7) May 26, 2013
With this event, we can calculate an estimate of the probability of an extremely large mass destructive collision wtih the earth (no more humans). ( a simple exercice ).
.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) May 26, 2013
With this event, we can calculate an estimate of the probability of an extremely large mass destructive collision wtih the earth (no more humans). ( a simple exercice ).

Not quite that simple. A singular event does not allow for the calculation of a probability.

For example if I tell you that I rolled a 13 then you don't know how probable that is - as you don't know what type of die I used..all you know is "A 13 is possible" - but nothing beyond that
Humpty
1 / 5 (7) May 27, 2013
And the dumb shits that are war profiteers, never invest a single fucking dollar, in refitting all the ICBM's to do deep space, long range missions, to blow these flying mountains into bits...
Mastoras
5 / 5 (1) May 28, 2013
we've never put in the time or effort to even map all the objects that could wipe us out of existance, much less put in place a plan to blast it or even move it off a collision course.


Actually, a "Near-Earth Asteroid Census" has already been done. See:

http://www.nasa.g...734.html

For a plan to blast an asteroid you need to have a specific target, plus this asteroid should pose a danger in the next few years. But for the moment there is no specific asteroid posing a danger, and so there are no plans to blast or move one of them.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) May 28, 2013
With this event, we can calculate an estimate of the probability of an extremely large mass destructive collision wtih the earth (no more humans).

It's much easier done by looking at Earth and figuring out how often we were hit in the past (mass extinctions coupled with the traces of asteroid impacts).

Looking at the Moon is also a good indicator of how many large/small asteroids hit an object with a given cross section - as it preserves the signs quite well. and that's also one of the reasons why there is a continual watch of the Moon's surface (which uncovered a nice hit just two weeks ago)

The large ones (i.e. the ones which can cause global extinction) are very rare - and consequently the statistics on these are always rather uncertain.

Betting on an "average time between hits" isn't a good idea, anyhow, when it comes to extinction events. Stochastic events just don't work that way.