BY | June 1, 2013

Giant asteroid 2013 that was heading for earth for years has reportedly safely sailed past Earth. It was being termed as the potential threat to the earth, but much to relief of the earthlings and scientists the asteroid called 1998 QE2 safely got past the Earth, with its moon closely following it.

A delighted NASA was quick to tweet: “#asteroidQE2 has sailed harmlessly past Earth.” The asteroid that made its closest approach to our planet for at least the next two centuries, toured within 3.6 million miles (5.8 million km) of Earth at 4:59 p.m. EDT (2059 GMT) today, before slipping back into the unknown depth of the space. The researchers had maintained that in case the1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) wide asteroid was to hit us, it would have led to catastrophic damage, potentially wiping out our species. The asteroid was discovered on August 19, 1998, the year for which it is named. The letter “Q” stands for the month of August.

However, apart from the lurking danger, the asteroid gave the opportunity to the space enthusiasts for getting the “best look at this asteroid ever.” Lance Benner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: “The resulting images should be of similar quality to those obtained when spacecraft get up close to asteroids As my old friend, radar astronomer Steve Ostro used to say, spaceship Earth is making a fly-by of the asteroid, so we’re going to exploit the capabilities of the radars to understand as much as possible.”

NASA has predicted that the asteroid will go by Earth next on July 12, 2028, but at that time there will be lots more elbow space — the asteroid is expected to be about 45 million miles away. There will be a much closer call in about 200 years.

Meanwhile the asteroid 1998 QE2 is being dubbed as a major milestone in the NASA’s ongoing Near Earth Object Project that is on a lookout for the potential danger from celestial projectiles whizzing past. Paul Chodas, a scientist with the project, said: “It’s one of the initial successes of our effort to find the big asteroids that could hit the Earth and cause global catastrophe. It’s certainly one to keep an eye on.”

Despite the discovery of the asteroid in 1998, it was only on Thursday that the scientists discovered the moon treading along the binary asteroid. According to NASA more than 15 percent of asteroids travel in groups of two or three objects revolving around one another.

NASA has been keeping a track of the asteroid since Thursday so as to get good pictures of the celestial body. After discovering the 2000 feet wide moon of 1998 QE2′s moon, NASA termed it as a “potential city killer.” Just to remind about the killer potential of an asteroid, the one that triggered the extinction of dinosaurs on Earth 65 million years ago was merely six miles in diameter. Even the meteor that exploded over Russia in February 2013 that left more than 1,000 people injured apart from causing damage worth several millions of dollars, was an extremely small asteroid.

Despite the asteroid zooming past the earth safely and getting lost in the space, scientists at NASA will continue take images of 1998 QE2 till June 9 with the help of two radar antennas installed in California and Puerto Rico.

In an advisory issued for the Amateur astronomers, NASA said: “The amateur scientists with telescopes as small as 10 inches long may just barely be able to see it in the southern skies. But their devices should be computer controlled because locating it otherwise will be difficult.”

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