Close encounter: Asteroid nearly 2 miles wide to pass Earth this month

It's a dark rock that's a full 1.7 miles wide. It's an asteroid.

Scientists compare it to the one that killed off the dinosaurs. But, before you start scrambling for the next shuttle flight off this planet, rest assured: It will not strike Earth.

It will, however, come very close to us in just a few days.

At 4:59 p.m. EDT on May 31, the asteroid, known as Asteroid 1998 QE2, will make its closest approach to Earth. It will be about 3.6 million miles from our planet at that point. That's 15 times farther than the Earth is to the moon. The approach may not sound close, but in space terms it is.

Although we won't be able to see the asteroid with the naked eye, scientists will be watching it closely. It will allow them to study the space rock with high powered telescopes that can see areas as small as 12 feet across.

Asteroid 1998 QE2 is unique. It is covered in a black soot-like substance that has scientists pondering where this rock came from. The theory is that this asteroid is a former comet that passed a little too close to the sun. It literally was charred by the sun's heat.

Thankfully, this rock won't get close to Earth again until 2119. And that's a good thing. Scientists say if a rock like this struck our planet, it would almost certainly mean extinction. There are certainly some scary things floating around out there in space. Sleep tight.

 

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