Large asteroid, with small moon in tow, to fly by Earth
NASA scientist calls it a "close shave" with an asteroid the size of nine cruise ships.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) -- A large asteroid accompanied by its own small moon was approaching Earth on Friday, the latest in a string of celestial visitors drawing attention to the potential dangers of objects in space.
Asteroid 1998 QE2 -- which is not named for the United Kingdom's monarch -- is about 1.7 miles in diameter, about nine times as long as the Queen Elizabeth II ocean liner.
It is far bigger than the small asteroid that blasted through the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia, on February 15, leaving more than 1,500 people injured by flying glass and debris.
That same day another asteroid, about 150 feet in diameter, passed about 17,200 miles from Earth -- closer than the networks of communication satellites that ring the planet.
At its closest approach, which will occur at 4:59 p.m. EDT, asteroid 1998 QE2 will be about 3.6 million miles from Earth, which is roughly 15 times farther away than Earth's moon.
"For an asteroid of this size, it's a close shave," said Paul Chodas, a scientist with NASA's Near Earth Object program office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
NASA is tracking 95 percent of the large asteroids with orbits that come relatively close to Earth. The U.S. space agency, as well as Russia, Europe and others, plans to beef up asteroid detection efforts to find smaller objects that could still do considerable damage if they hit a populated area.
Scientists used radar to get a preview of the asteroid on Wednesday and discovered it had a small moon in tow.
"It was quite a surprise," Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a NASA TV interview.
After its pass around the sun, QE2 will head back toward the outer asteroid belt on an orbit that extends nearly to Jupiter.
Friday's flyby is the closest QE2 will come to Earth for at least the next 200 years, Chodas said.
Astronomers are hoping to get images and data during the flyby that will be as good as what spacecraft visiting other asteroids have returned.
1.7 miles in size is pretty much a planet destroyer.... The dust alone from something that size would block out most of the sun for quite some time.... Though it wouldn't kill everything here on earth, most animal life would be killed, and much of the vegetation would die off and the earth could possibly be plunged into an ice age due to the drop in the atmosphere left by the explosion from the impact and our plant life dying due to cold, heat and dust and lack of sunlight.... Far far worst than any nuclear explosion....
Ask any scientist what would happen if it hit earth....
It really wouldn't matter where an astriod hit here on earth, scientist believe an event like this killed off the dinosaurs about 26 million years ago.... The astriod was believed to have been about 5 miles wide though and hit the area that is Mexico today....
We better leave the asteroids alone. U change the orbit of 1 asteroid, that will have 2 affect the orbit of all remaining asteroids. We need 2 leave well enough alone!
@ Kenneth Hoefer: You obviously have been brainwashed by Hollywood. Try meeting people from that region or better yet go there and visit so you can see it first hand. Read what Ted Turner and other Americans have to say about the middle east that have seen it.
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