June 2, 2013 (TSR) – An asteroid named after Queen Elizabeth II measuring almost 2.7 kilometers in diameter whizzed past Earth Friday afternoon at a relatively close but safe distance.
“The closest approach of the asteroid occurred today at 4:59 p. m. EDT (2059 GMT), when the asteroid was no closer than about 3.6 million miles (5.8 million kilometers), or about 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon,” U.S. space agency NASA said in a statement.
“Its next pass, on July 12, 2028 will be at a very safe 45 million miles (73 million kilometers),” said NASA.
On Thursday, NASA researchers using the 70-meter Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, reported the giant asteroid dubbed 1998 QE2 has its own moon.
A sequence of radar images obtained on Wednesday evening revealed 1998 QE2 is actually a binary system. The preliminary estimate for the size of the asteroid’s satellite, or moon, is approximately 600 meters wide.
It’s not a big surprise as NASA said that about 16 percent of asteroids that are about 200 meters or larger in the near-Earth population are binary or triple systems.
NASA is tracking 95% of the large asteroids with orbits that come relatively close to Earth. The agency, as well as Russia, Europe and others, plans to beef up detection efforts to find smaller objects that could still do considerable damage if they hit a populated area.
On February 15, a small asteroid nicknamed ‘Fireball’ blasted through the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia, leaving more than 1,500 people injured by flying glass and debris.
That same day another asteroid, about 150ft in diameter, passed about 17,200 miles from Earth – closer than the networks of communication satellites that ring the planet.