Asteroid 1998 QE2 passes Earth with moon in tow

NASA has published a series of images taken of the asteroid 1998 QE2, which were snapped yesterday via the Deep Space Network Antenna in California. Although the asteroid was located 3.75 million miles away, its relative distance was quite close, and it brought with it a moon, which is smaller in diameter and visible in the images as the white spot. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory took the opportunity to observe the asteroid, led by Marina Brozovic.

According to NASA, the asteroid is a binary asteroid, as shown by the radar images that were taken. About 16-percent of asteroids measuring in with a minimum diameter of 655-feet are of the binary variety. Based on the images, the space agency says the asteroid is about 1.7-miles in diameter, rotating in less than 4 hours and featuring multiple concavities.

Aside from the asteroid is one of its more interesting feature – the moon, which is said to be about 2000 feet in diameter. At about 2PM today, the asteroid was at its closest point to Earth, measuring in at about 15x the distance between our planet and the moon. Such was a notable event, with the asteroid not being slated for coming this close again within the next 200 years, possibly longer.

As you might have guessed from its name, the asteroid was discovered back in 1998. While it is no longer as close to us as it was today, it will still be hanging around in the vicinity for awhile, and as such researchers in both California and Puerto Rico will observe and image the space rock until June 9. Says NASA, in the coming days we may get to see clear, more detailed images of 1998 QE2.

Keeping an eye on the asteroid is part of a bigger plan that involves tracking the space rocks, helping to ultimately protect Earth – or at least help anticipate, at this point – when an asteroid might collide with our planet. Many projects are underway looking into various methods on how to redirect or destroy near-earth objects that pose a danger to our planet.