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Thursday, May 30, 2013


Asteroid 1998 QE2, 28 May 2013 (and viewing hints)

Asteroid 1998 QE2, 28 May, 12x10 second exposures stacked in ImageJ and MAX Z-project applied. R filter, iTelescope T9 (it's the bright point like object, the stars are trailed as the scope tracks on the asteroid).Animated GIF from the 12 frames
Evening sky as seen looking north from the Siding Springs Observatory at 11 pm AEST (similar views will be seen elsewhere at an equivalent time)Close up view of the track of 1998 QE2. The tick marks are every 3 hours, closest approach is at 4:59 AEST June 1.

Near Earth Object 285263 1998 QE2 will be of interest for the those with modest sized telescopes and up. This is a "bright" (bit better than magnitude 11),  relatively slow mover, visible from all of Australia (and the world) and you don't have to do much fancy foot work to catch it as it passes through Libra.

285263 1998 QE2 is a whopping 2.1 Km diameter rock that will be 15.2 Earth-Moon distances from us at closest approach.

It is closest on May 31 at 20:59 UT. That's 4:59 AEST June 1 in Australia. But it is pretty bright before this (magnitude 10.8), and is actually slightly brighter after this (magnitude 10.7 for a couple of days). From Australia it is quite high in the sky, and passes some reasonably obvious sky landmarks, so is easy to find. Also, it is moving fast enough that after a relatively short while you can see it move with respect to the background stars.

Standard planetarium plotting will work well, if your planetarium program can import orbital elements. Unfortunately Stellarium chokes on NEO orbits, even 1998 QE2, which is relatively far away, so you have to use something else. You can also create an ephemeris directly from the Minor Planet Center. For MPC ephemerides or downloadable orbital elements go to

Here's my GIF animation as a Youtube video http://youtu.be/tCY2Cl8eaOQ

 Even better, here's Andrew Wall's widefield video from tonight  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faQsamr2-5c

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These guys say it's going to be pretty close:

15 Earth Moon distances is pretty close cosmically speaking, but on te scale of the Earth Moon system it's a huge miss.
Approaching Asteroid Has Its Own Moon!

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