Asteroid 1998 QE2: How To Watch The Huge Asteroid Pass Earth This Friday [UPDATED]

By iScienceTimes Staff on May 28, 2013 3:27 PM EDT

asteroid
Asteroid 1998 QE2 will pass by Earth this Friday at a distance of 3.6 million miles. This NASA illustration shows what it looks like when an asteroid falls apart as it hurtles through space. (Photo: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

UPDATE

The Slooh Space Camera will be showing live video of the QE2 asteroid on May 31, 2013, for those who don't have access to a NASA-grade radar telescope. Check out the countdown clock, which will tell you when the Slooh Space Camera will come online. You can also watch asteroid 1998 QE2 using the Slooh iPad app.

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Slooh.com broadcasts are accompanied by live commentary by Bob Berman, author and contributing editor of Astronomy Magazine. The next live event after the QE2 asteroid viewing will be Berman's Live Universe Show on June 2 and then the "Super Moon" on June 23.

An asteroid nine times larger than a cruise ship will fly by Earth on Friday, May 31.

Asteroid 1998 QE2, which is a staggering 1.7 miles long, will stay 3.6 million miles away from Earth -- about 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon -- so there's little danger of it colliding with the planet.

But the QE2 asteroid will still be visible from Earth, and you won't want to miss it, because it won't be this close again for another two centuries.

"It is tremendously exciting to see detailed images of this asteroid for the first time," radar astronomer Lance Benner told NASA. "With radar we can transform an object from a point of light into a small world with its own unique set of characteristics. In a real sense, radar imaging of near-Earth asteroids is a fundamental form of exploring a whole class of solar system objects."

So how can you watch the QE2 asteroid as it flies by Earth?

Well, according to NASA, anyone with a 230-foot radar telescope at their disposal will be able to see the asteroid.

NASA astronomers will be viewing asteroid 1998 QE2 using the 230-foot Goldstone dish telescope in California, and in Puerto Rico using the 1,000-foot telescope at the Arecibo Observatory. NASA says that images from the Goldstone antenna could show features on the asteroid that are as small as 12 feet -- all from 4 million miles away.

But if you don't have a 230-foot radar telescope -- which, unless you're NASA, you probably don't -- you may still be able to see the QE2 asteroid using a conventional telescope. The website Universe Today has detailed instructions on how to see the asteroid as it flies by the planet on May 31 at 4:59 PM ET. Basically: aim at Libra around midnight, and watch for a tiny moving dot.

What you would see with a non-radar telescope doesn't sound particularly thrilling. Says Universe Today, "Visually, 1998 QE2 will look like a tiny, star-like point in the eye-piece of a telescope. Use low power and sketch or photograph the field of view and compare the positions of objects about 10 minutes apart. Has anything moved?"

Astronomers at MIT's Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research program in New Mexico discovered the QE2 asteroid in August 1998. The named "QE2" doesn't refer to England's queen or to the famous cruise ship, but was named by the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., using an alphanumeric system.

Check NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology site, where they may post QE2 images after Friday's asteroid event.

READ MORE:

California Wildfires: How Is NASA Using Satellites to Fight Fires From Outer Space?

Moon Explosion: How Massive Was The Meteorite That Recently Collided With The Lunar Surface? [VIDEO]

Life On Mars: Does Arctic Bacteria Discovery Indicate Possible Life In Space? 

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