(RNN) - NASA scientists captured an amazing but expected sight Wednesday - a large asteroid with its own moon, and it's set to pass Earth on Friday.
Asteroid 1998 QE2 was photographed in close proximity to Earth by radar observations from NASA's Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, CA, on May 29. The radar images were taken by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.
Astronomers estimate the large asteroid at nearly 1.7 miles wide. Its moon is large as well, being estimated at 2,000 feet in diameter. In comparison, the Earth's diameter at the equator is 7,926 miles. One rotation of the asteroid takes less than four hours, and scientists predict that it's mostly round in shape.
QE2 is a binary asteroid, a system of asteroids that travel in orbit together with a common center of mass. About 16 percent of asteroids are binary.
The naming of asteroids isn't scientific; the asteroid was first discovered in 1998, Q represents the month it was discovered, and E2 is the order in which it was discovered.
Not to worry, earthlings - QE2 will not make contact with our planet. It will pass Earth at a safe and peaceful distance of 3.6-million miles, or nearly 15 times the distance between our moon and Earth.
The asteroid will be closest to Earth at 4:59 p.m. EST Friday, rising in the southeast to the southwest. Many amateur astronomers will be able to see it with their telescopes. Even though QE2 will not make impact with Earth, an asteroid its size could destroy land the size of the commonwealth of Virginia or the country of Taiwan.
The proximity to Earth will be a great learning experience for radar astronomers and other officials at NASA who will learn more about QE2's material makeup, its future movement, the development of other asteroids and the development and matter of the solar system.
Fans of flying space rocks can follow the updates of QE2's movement and other asteroids on NASA's Asteroid Watch Twitter account. Others can watch the movement of QE2 on NASA's Eye on the Solar System website. NASA also hosted an UStream chat Thursday explaining in depth QE2, asteroids and how to view and understand its importance.
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