Sunday, May 26, 2013

Massive asteroid 1998 QE2 will make a close pass on May 31 2013

The huge asteroid 1998 QE2 will pass close to the earth on May 31, 2013 (or on June 1, depending on where you live). It will pass the earth at a distance of about 3.6 million miles (5.8 million kilometers), or about 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon. We should be happy that it will not come any closer. It is big enough to ensure that any collision between QE2 and the earth would be catastrophic for most life on earth. I was unable to locate a mass estimate for the asteroid on the web; but we know it is about 2.7 KM along one dimension. Visit  for more information.

Those interested can sign up for a free event over the Web including commentary by staff of the Virtual Telescope Project 2.0 (it will be at about 2 AM on the morning of June 1, 2013 in Bangalore) Visit  provides information on the Virtual Telescope Project 2.0

Visibility: I was personally surprised to learn that such a huge rock passing us at a distance of 5.8 million KM will not be visible even to those who use a pair of binoculars. The fact that its surface is covered by some black substance may partly explain this.

Measuring the Asteroid's Mass: Let me ask my friends in physics research: do you think you can rig up a way of measuring the gravitational effect of such a mass passing at that distance? That is, can you measure a change of about ten parts in a million in gravitational acceleration in your lab? What would be the extent of low frequency gravitational noise in your lab?

Srinivasan Ramani

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