By Mike Wall
A huge asteroid is set to cruise by Earth Friday afternoon (May 31), making its closest approach to our planet for at least the next two centuries.
Asteroid 1998 QE2 will come within 3.6 million miles (5.8 million kilometers) of Earth at 4:59 p.m. EDT (2059 GMT) Friday — about 15 times the distance from our planet to the moon.
There's no chance the 1.7-mile-wide (2.7 km) 1998 QE2 will hit us, researchers say. That's a good thing, because a strike by such a big space rock would cause catastrophic damage, potentially wiping out our species.
In general, scientists think any asteroid bigger than 0.6 miles, or 1 km, could end human civilization if it hit us. For comparison, the object that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago is thought to have been about 6 miles (10 km) wide.
Asteroid 1998 QE2 won't put on a show for skywatchers. At its closest pass, the space rock will still be 100 times fainter than the dimmest star visible to naked-eye observers under clear and dark skies, experts say.
But several different organizations, including the Slooh Space Telescope and the Virtual Telescope Project, will broadcast live views of the near-Earth asteroid's close approach from professional-quality observatories around the world. You can watch their 1998 QE2 webcasts starting at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT) (See link below):
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WATCH LIVE @ 4:30: Asteroid 1998 QE2 Flyby
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