An asteroid the size of the one that wiped out the dinosaurs is to safely pass by Earth later today and the 2.7-kilometre (1.7 miles) long behemoth is dragging its own moon with it.
The closest the asteroid, dubbed 10998 QE2, will be to Earth is 5.8m kilometres (3.6m miles). The flyby at 9.59pm GMT will be the asteroid’s closest approach to the planet for at least the next 200 years, US space agency NASA said.
The National Post reported NASA scientist Paul Chodas as having said it’s one of the larger asteroids to swing by Earth and is the size of the space rock that wiped out the dinosaurs.
The asteroid’s moon is no shrinking violet, either, measuring 610 metres (2,000 feet) wide.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) programme near Socorro, New Mexico, discovered 10998 QE2 on 19 August 1998.
NASA scientists using the 70-metre (230-foot) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, obtained a sequence of radar images of the asteroid and its moon on the evening of 29 May. At the time, 10998 QE2 was about 6m kilometres (3.75m miles) away from Earth.
Watch NASA’s sequence of radar images of asteroid 10998 QE2 and its moon here:
Asteroid 1998 QE2 will get no closer than about 5.8m kilometres (3.6m miles) at time of closest approach on 31 May 2013 at 9.59pm GMT. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech