TECH

Asteroid 1998 QE2 Is A completely Different Type Of Space Rock Say Scientists

17/06/2013 11:10 BST

An asteroid nine-times the size of an ocean liner that flew past us on a "near-Earth" trajectory last month is an entirely new type of space rock, scientists have discovered.

Asteroid 1998 QE2, which even has its own moon, was tracked as it passed with astronomers at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico taking a number of radar images.

Arecibo's Ellen Howell said: "Asteroid QE2 is dark, red, and primitive — that is, it hasn’t been heated or melted as much as other asteroids.

asteroid qe2 radar

The asteroid with its moon visible

"QE2 is nothing like any asteroid we've visited with a spacecraft, or plan to, or that we have meteorites from. It's an entirely new beast in the menagerie of asteroids near Earth," reports Space.com.

QE2 was an excellent opportunity to study an asteroid, particularly one that has its own moon which is about 600 metres wide.

According to Nasa 16% of asteroids larger than 200 metres have their own satellites, but it's still pretty unique to see one so close to Earth.

By examining the orbit of the moon scientists should be able to determine the asteroid's gravitational pull and from that, its composition.

The asteroid was discovered in 1998 by the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, despite the comparisons, was not named for the QE2 cruise ship. Its size has instead been more accurately compared to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.

The space rock completes one lap around the sun every 3.8 years.