Asteroid 1998 QE2 will be passing Earth today at 4:59 p.m. Eastern, at a distance of 3.6 million miles, or about 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon. That is still much too close for comfort, as a collision would mean global extinction. This event has reignited the debate about whether we are doing enough to detect other potential cosmic collisions.

In the meantime, we are learning more about asteroid 1998 QE2 the closer it gets. In fact, the first radar images of the space rock were obtained on May 29 when the asteroid was about 3.75 million miles from Earth. These images revealed 1998 QE2 is a binary asteroid, meaning it has its own moon. In the images above, the moon is the small white dot at lower right.

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Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR