An asteroid field (Courtesy NASA)

1.7-mile-wide asteroid will be closest to Earth – um, today!

NASA scientists say the large, 1.7-mile-wide rock, named Asteroid 1998 QE2, will be the closest to Earth today, May 31, at 4:59 p.m. EDT.  According to NASA scientist Paul Chodas, it’s one of the larger asteroids to swing by Earth and is the size of the space rock that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Don’t worry, though. It will still be 3.6 million miles away.

“It’s not that close compared to the one in February. This one is more than 15 times further,” says Dr. Humberto Campins, an international expert on asteroids, of Venezuelan descent, and professor at the University of Central Florida. “It’s interesting, because we can observe it more closely. I think it’s an exciting opportunity.”

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He says not to worry.

“It has zero chance of impacting us,” says Dr. Campins. “If one of them is threatening us in the future, we are prepared to do something about it.”

Astronomers getting their first close-up glimpse of a giant asteroid about to whiz by Earth found a surprise bonus rock. A smaller moon asteroid is circling the larger space rock, an unusual but not unheard of space phenomenon.

The smaller rock was discovered Wednesday night by astronomers using radar to look at QE2. The moon asteroid is about 2,000 feet wide. That’s about average for such near-Earth objects.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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