The May 31 flyby of asteroid 1998 QE2, which is about 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) long, poses no threat to Earth. The space rock will come within 3.6 million miles (5.8 million km) of our planet — about 15 times the distance separating Earth and the moon, researchers say.
But the close approach will still be dramatic for astronomers, who plan to get a good look at 1998 QE2 using two huge radar telescopes — NASA's 230-foot (70 meters) Goldstone dish in California and the 1,000-foot (305 m) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
A big asteroid that flew past Earth last month belongs to a new category of space rock, scientists say.
“Asteroid QE2 is dark, red, and primitive — that is, it hasn’t been heated or melted as much as other asteroids," Arecibo's Ellen Howell said in a statement. "QE2 is nothing like any asteroid we've visited with a spacecraft, or plan to, or that we have meteorites from. It's an entirely new beast in the menagerie of asteroids near Earth."
The 1,000-foot-wide (305 meters) Arecibo dish and NASA's 230-foot (70 m) Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, Calif., tracked 1998 QE2 as it approached Earth last month, then kept following the near-Earth asteroid as it receded into the depths of space.