next Friday, on May 31th 2013, the asteroid 1998 QE2 will be close to Earth, closer than about 5.8 million kilometers, or about 15 times the distance between Earth and the Moon. The asteroid was discovered on August 19th 1998, by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program near Socorro, New Mexico.
The Asteroid 1998 QE2 will be an outstanding radar imaging target for the Goldstone and Arecibo telescope in order to obtain a series of high-resolution images that could reveal a wealth of surface features. The closest approach of the asteroid occurs on May 31 at 1:59 p.m. Pacific (4:59 p.m. Eastern / 20:59 UTC).
"Whenever an asteroid approaches this closely, it provides an important scientific opportunity to study it in detail to understand its size, shape, rotation, surface features, and what they can tell us about its origin. We will also use new radar measurements of the asteroid's distance and velocity to improve our calculation of its orbit and compute its motion farther into the future than we could otherwise." said Lance Benner , the principal investigator for the Goldstone radar observations from +NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
+NASA places a high priority on tracking asteroids and protecting our home planet from them. In fact, the U.S. has the most robust and productive survey and detection program for discovering near-Earth objects. Last year, the NEO budget was increased from $6 million to $20 million.
In 2016, +NASA will launch a robotic probe, called the OSIRIS-REx to the asteroid (101955) Bennu. Aside from monitoring potential threats, the study of asteroids and comets enables a valuable opportunity to learn more about the origins of our solar system, the source of water on Earth, and even the origin of organic molecules that lead to the development of life.
+NASA recently announced developing a first-ever mission to identify, capture and relocate an asteroid for human exploration. Using game-changing technologies advanced by the Administration, this mission would mark an unprecedented technological achievement that raises the bar of what humans can do in space. Capturing and redirecting an asteroid will integrate the best of NASA's science, technology and human exploration capabilities and draw on the innovation of America's brightest scientists and engineers.
More information about asteroid radar research is at: http://echo.jpl.nasa.gov/