A big asteroid will cruise by Earth at the end of the month, making its closest approach to our planet for at least the next two centuries.
The May 31 flyby of asteroid 1998 QE2, which is about 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) long, poses no threat to Earth. The space rock will come within 3.6 million miles (5.8 million km) of our planet - about 15 times the distance separating Earth and the moon, researchers say.
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But the close approach will still be dramatic for astronomers, who plan to get a good look at 1998 QE2 using two huge radar telescopes - NASA's 230-foot (70 meters) Goldstone dish in California and the 1,000-foot (305 m) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
"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," Lance Benner of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., principal investigator for Goldstone radar observations, said in a statement.