Asteroid 1998 QE2 Actually Has a Moon

This 3-kilometer asteroid is passing relatively close to Earth on May 31 at 20:59 UTC and it poses no hazard to us. It will pass within 5.8 million kilometers (about 15 times the distance to the Moon).

Asteroids that get this close are of particular interest to astronomers, because we can learn more about such bodies. Astronomers use radio telescopes to bounce radar off them, which can lead to a better determination of their size, shape, speed, and position.

Astronomers were surprised to find that 1998 QE2 is actually a binary asteroid, a big rock being orbited by smaller one. Approximately, 16 percent of near-Earth asteroids bigger than 200 meters across have companions. The primary asteroid is about 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) across, and the moon is about 600 meters (2,000 feet) across.

Radar observations of asteroid 1998 QE2 and its orbiting moon. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR

Radar observations of asteroid 1998 QE2 and its orbiting moon.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR

The radar data here are not showing an actual picture of the asteroid:

“The vertical axis is showing distance to the asteroid—if there’s a hill you’d see it poke up toward the top, and a crater would be a depression. The horizontal axis, though, is actually the velocity at which the asteroid is spinning. The faster the rock spins, the more smeared out it is left to right; one that doesn’t spin at all would look like a vertical line. I know, it’s weird, but it’s the way this kind of radar observation works.

Not only that, but we’re illuminating it with the radar pulses, so when you look at the picture or video, it’s like the radio telescope is off the top of the frame, shining down on the asteroid.”

Animation of thirteen images captured by the Goldstone radio telescope on May 30, 2013, as asteroid (285263) 1998 QE2 was only 6 million kilometers from Earth.   Credit: NASA / JPL / Emily Lakdawalla

Animation of thirteen images captured by the Goldstone radio telescope on May 30, 2013, as asteroid (285263) 1998 QE2 was only 6 million kilometers from Earth.
Credit: NASA / JPL / Emily Lakdawalla

 

Source:
http://goo.gl/04oir
http://goo.gl/YRphW

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About ~ wolfrayetstar

Science enthusiast and visual artist - hobbyist. Begginer in astrophotography and huge fan of nerdy jokes.
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