NASA has been keeping a close eye on 1998 QE2, an asteroid which Earth will have a close shave with this evening. Anyone with an interest in space and this huge asteroid is invited to join NASA officials for a social media event later today.
Google+ Hangout On Asteroid 1998 QE2
This afternoon, space geeks and the media are invited to join NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver who will participate in a White House “We the Geeks” Google+ Hangout. The hangout can be viewed at the White House’s official Google+ page, and it starts at 2 p.m. Eastern today. Bill Nye the Science Guy and former astronaut Ed Lu will also be taking part in the hangout.
Details On Asteroid 1998 QE2
The asteroid is of particular interest to NASA because officials say it would wipe out many of the species on Earth if it were to collide with our planet. The asteroid 1998 QE2 is about 1.7 miles long–approximately the size of the Golden Gate Bridge. It will sail past Earth this afternoon at 4:59 p.m. Eastern.
Thankfully the big rock will be passing our planet at a safe distance of 3.6 million miles, which is still a near miss as far as the universe is concerned. That distance is about 15 times the distance between the Moon and Earth.
NASA revealed earlier this week that the asteroid appears to have its own moon, making it a binary asteroid system. In the near-Earth area, only about 16 percent of asteroids that are 655 feet or bigger are either binary or triple systems.
NASA’s Plan To Study Asteroids
As asteroid 1998 QE2 passes by, astronomers will be using high power telescopes to study its surface. They’re hoping that close-up images of the asteroid’s surface will reveal where it came from and also show off “a wealth of surface features.”
The agency announced earlier this month that it would hold its first mission to actually sample an asteroid. The launch for that mission is set for 2016. The probe OSIRIS-Rex will land on the asteroid Bennu in 2018 and send a sample of it back to Earth in 2023.
Astronomers are hoping that Bennu will hold clues about the origin of the solar system. The space probe will map the global properties of the asteroid, take measurements, and provide observations to compare with information received via telescope observations made from Earth.