Friday, May 31, 2013

1998 QE2 Raises Asteroid Awareness

Asteroid 1998 QE2 with its small moon. Radar picture.

Ever since the smacking Russia got earlier this year, the world has been paying more and more attention to the passing of NEOs (Near Earth Objects). Congressional committees have been receiving briefings from NASA. News outlets and space blogs have been covering every passing rock. And NASA has received the goal from the President of traveling to an asteroid, and maybe diverting it to Earth Orbit to study it (anyone else think that may be a bad idea?).

Today at a minute before 3 pm MDT, asteroid 1998 QE2 will pass about 3.6 million miles from the Earth. In space distance terms, that IS close, but in reality, no need for any panicking or worrying. But what makes QE2 so interesting is that radar imaging has discovered that the big hunk of rock has its own orbiting satellite, or moon. The little dude is about 600 meters across, or about 2000 feet.

It's been very cool to see more people paying attention to one of the actual space dangers we could see in our lifetimes. NASA's budget for detection and tracking of NEOs has gone from about $6 million to just about $20 million in 2012. WHile some scientists think that they may have discovered up to 98% of the objects already, this year's collision with the Chelyabinsk asteroid proves that it's the ones you DON'T see that are the trouble-makers.

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