The large asteroid that swept harmlessly past Earth yesterday (May 31, 2013) left us with another awesome batch of images and video, and a deepening appreciation for the number of asteroids that sweep past Earth on a regular basis. At its closest, asteroid 1998 QE2 was within 3.6 million miles (5.8 million kilometers). That closest approach – 15 times the moon’s distance – took place at 4:59 p.m. EDT on May 31. No danger … and yet this asteroid captured the attention of astronomers worldwide, and even the White House took note, inviting experts for a “We the Geeks” G+ hangout yesterday shortly before closest approach took place (you’ll find a video of that event below). If you’re wondering how many asteroids surround us in space, look at yesterday’s image of the day from EarthSky, a map of asteroid in the inner solar system. Or just check out the images and video below, from astronomers around the world, showing 1998 QE2 at its closest.
The video above asteroid 1998 QE2 as imaged by the Virtual Telescope Project.
Just how big an asteroid passed us yesterday? 1998 QE2 was variously described as “big,” “giant,” “colossal” and so on in the media yesterday. The asteroid – which won’t come as close as 15 times the moon’s distance again for at least two centuries – is 1.7 miles across (2.7 kilometers) across. As asteroids go, that’s big – big enough to wipe out civilization on Earth – but not this time. There have also been some clever comparisons of asteroid 1998 QE2 with the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2 (also referred to as QE2), as in the video below.
Bottom line: Images and video of asteroid 1998 QE2, whose closest approach was May 31, 2013.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.