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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
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

Asteroid 1998 QE2 to Sail Past Earth Nine Times Larger Than Cruise Ship

On May 31, 2013, asteroid 1998 QE2 will sail serenely past Earth, getting no closer than about 3.6 million miles (5.8 million kilometers), or about 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon. And while QE2 is not of much interest to those astronomers and scientists on the lookout for hazardous asteroids, it is of interest to those who dabble in radar astronomy and have a 230-foot (70-meter) -- or larger -- radar telescope at their disposal.

"Asteroid 1998 QE2 will be an outstanding radar imaging target at Goldstone and Arecibo and we expect to obtain a series of high-resolution images that could reveal a wealth of surface features," said radar astronomer Lance Benner, the principal investigator for the Goldstone radar observations from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Whenever an asteroid approaches this closely, it provides an important scientific opportunity to study it in detail to understand its size, shape, rotation, surface features, and what they can tell us about its origin. We will also use new radar measurements of the asteroid's distance and velocity to improve our calculation of its orbit and compute its motion farther into the future than we could otherwise."

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.

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2015:  Hayabusa 2: Earth Swingby
Jun 2018:  Hayabusa 2: Arrival at Asteroid 1999 JU3
Dec 2019:  Hayabusa 2: Leaves Asteroid 1999 JU3 for Earth
2020:  OSIRIS-REx: Arrival at asteroid 1999 RQ36
Dec 2020:  Hayabusa 2: Asteroid Samples Returned to Earth
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