UPDATE: Massive Asteroid to Pass by Earth Tomorrow
May has not been kind to our small corner of the Milky Way.
Earlier this month, the moon was walloped with a massive impact, causing the largest explosion scientists ever recorded. If that wasn't bad enough, a massive asteroid nearly 2 miles wide will zip by Earth on Friday (May 31), in a cosmic level event that has grabbed the attention of stargazers, scientists and even White House officials.
Asteroid 1998 QE2 is an approximately 1.7-mile long chunk of rock and ice coated in a sticky, tar like substance, will make its closets pass to the Earth at 1:59 p.m. PDT. (That's nine cruise ships laid end to end in size.) To put that in perspective, if something of that size impacted Earth it would probably result in global extinction.
Good thing it's just visiting.
Researchers remain unsure as to the origin of this asteroid. Discovered 15 years ago, the odd sooty substance on its surface may point to it being the result of a comet that wandered to close to the sun, Amy Mainzer, who tracks near-Earth objects at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge reportedly said.
Scientists are planning to study the asteroid more closely when it passes by Earth in a two weeks by using the Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, Calif., and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. 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.
Thankfully, scientists say there is no chance that asteroid 1998 QE2 could collide with Earth this go-around, and we won't see it again until 2119.
For those who don't want to wait until tomorrow to get a look at Earth's unwelcome visitor, NASA chief Charles Bolden will host live telescope views of the asteroid today (May 30) at 1:30 p.m. EDT (1739 GMT) during a one-hour broadcast from the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Stargazers and other interested parties can also watch the asteroid webcast live on SPACE.com courtesy of NASA. NASA will host a webchat about the asteroid with the agency's meteor expert William Cooke at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. at 8 p.m. EDT (0000 GMT) tonight. For those interested in watching, click here: http://www.nasa.gov/chat
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