Look Out, Here Comes Another NEO – Asteroid QE2!

asteroid20130514-640Picture Eleanor Arroway (Contact)  sitting for hours in the desert with a towel on her head, pressing her headphones tight against her ears trying to hear anything that would sound remotely like ET. Oh how I’d love to be her!

While the research done by radio astronomers may include the search for ET, it also includes the task of searching for NEO’s or near earth asteroids.

According to NASA, an NEO will graze by Earth on May 31st.  OK, not so much of a graze but it IS in the neighborhood.  Asteroid 1998 QE2 will sail by earth at a distance of 3.6 million miles, or about 15 lunar distances. It’s about 1.7 miles across, or the size of 9 Queen Elizabeth 2’s.

This won’t make a great visual observing target, but the radio astronomers are ready to go! Radar images can resolve features on the asteroid as small as 12 feet across. Between May 30th and June 9th radio astronomers will be using both the Goldstone California’s Deep Space Network antenna and the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. (It’ll do!) Using both will maximize the information we can get during this brief encounter.

Stay tuned for images and updates!!

Hmmm – I think I have to watch Contact again. This time I’ll try not to sit two feet away from the screen with the surround sound blaring during the opening. Nope, sorry, I can’t resist!!

High Priestess of the Desert


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