This “Near Earth Object” is so big it has its own moon, and it’s visiting Earth today. Let’s hope the scientists didn’t get the estimated distance wrong! Via NPR:
An asteroid nine times the size of a cruise ship is dropping by Earth Friday, and it’s not coming alone. Asteroid 1998 QE2 will be about 3.6 million miles from our planet at its closest approach. But the new proximity has already given scientists a surprise: The asteroid has its own moon, measured at about 2,000 feet wide.
Today will mark the closest the asteroid comes to Earth for at least the next 200 years, say researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who led the radar observations spotting the asteroid’s moon. The point of maximum proximity will come at 4:59 p.m. ET, or 20:59 UTC, Friday, according to the space agency.
“In the near-Earth population, about 16 percent of asteroids that are about 655 feet (200 meters) or larger are binary or triple systems,” according to NASA. “Radar images suggest that the main body, or primary, is approximately 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) in diameter and has a rotation period of less than four hours.”
Unless you can access a powerful telescope, you won’t be able to see the asteroid, much less its tagalong — 1998 QE2 will pass no closer than 15 times the distance between the Earth and its moon. You can watch live video of the asteroid’s passage at Space.com, where a webcast will feature video from the Slooh Space Telescope and the Virtual Telescope Project.
[continues at NPR]