Asteroid Passes Earth Friday At Chabot Space Science Center Oakland

On Friday May 31st, the Asteroid 1998 QE2, said to be as large as the City of Emeryville, is set to fly close to Earth, and the Chabot Space and Science Center Oakland at 10000 Skyline Blvd, invites you to watch it there at 1:59 PM (but Chabot says to come at 9:30 PM).

Afterward, you can engage in some interesting conversations about meteors, as this blogger did with Galaxy Explorer interns, talking about the Russian Meteor:

Here’s the full press release on Friday’s event at Chabot Space And Science Center Oakland:

On Friday, May 31 at 1:59pm (PST) Asteroid 1998 QE2 will cruise 3.6 million miles from Earth, approximately 15 times the distance between the moon and Earth. The distance of the asteroid is not particularly impressive as it will not be especially close. But what it lacks in distance it compensates for in size. At about 1.6 miles across, Asteroid 1998 QE2 is roughly the length of nine Queen Elizabeth II cruise ships, or for local Bay Area residents, the size of the city of Emeryville.

Given the size, NASA is predicting this asteroid will be especially of interest to those professionals and enthusiasts of radar astronomy and have access to a radar telescope. Using this technology to produce high-quality and detailed images, NASA scientist are hoping to learn as much as possible about this and other asteroids. This effort is part of the Near-Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study (NHATS), launched by NASA in 2010. The purpose is to identify and track any known near-Earth objects, including asteroids that might be accessible by humans in a potential mission.

Asteroid 1998 QE2 will be bright enough to be easily seen and tracked by Chabot Space & Science Center astronomers using Nellie, Chabot’s research telescope, during the late evening on May 31. Due to a late sunset that evening, Chabot astronomers will begin tracking after 9:30pm when the asteroid will be about 30 degrees above the horizon in the southern sky, 7 degrees directly below Saturn, at magnitude 10.6. Astronomers from the East Bay Astronomical Society will also be out in force with their telescopes, and visitors are encouraged to bring their own telescopes for viewing and photography or look through the many telescopes that will be on the deck.

According to Alexander Zwissler, CEO & Executive Director at the Center, “It’s our mission to introduce astronomy and space science to the public through our exhibits and programs, but we’re always thrilled to be able to demonstrate this science in real time through events such as Asteroid 1998 QE2 passing by Earth. There’s nothing that compares to the excitement of visitors of all ages seeing this kind of phenomenon through our telescopes.”

Chabot Space & Science Center’s three telescopes are open on Friday night for public viewing and lively conversation with astronomers. The Center also will feature asteroid and space-related activities inside the Center and a showing of the live planetarium show, Cosmos 360: Inspired by Space.

Stay tuned.

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