NASA video: Asteroid's own moon rising as it blasts by Earth
This image of asteroid 1998 QE2 was obtained on June 1, 2013, when the asteroid was about 6 million kilometers from Earth. The small white dot in the lower right is the moon, or satellite, orbiting asteroid 1998 QE2. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / GSSR)
Published Friday, June 7, 2013 11:55AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 7, 2013 12:01PM EDT
NASA has released stunning new video of an asteroid blasting by Earth while its own moon orbits around the asteroid.
Asteroid 1998 QE2 passed by Earth at the end of May, but NASA only released the new video clip late this week. It comprises 55 individual images captured by the massive Deep Space Network radar antenna in California.
- Scroll down to watch the NASA footage
The moon can be seen rising above asteroid 1998 QE2 as it completes a segment of its 32-hour orbit. Meanwhile, the asteroid can be seen spinning in its own rotation as the moon climbs overhead.
"The asteroid's satellite, or moon, is approximately 600 metres wide, has an elongated appearance, and completes a revolution around its host body about once every 32 hours," NASA said in a statement.
The asteroid has a diameter of three kilometres, according to new estimates from NASA.
The space between the asteroid and its moon is roughly 6.4 kilometres. Similar to Earth's moon, it always keeps the same face pointed toward its primary asteroid -- a phenomenon known as "synchronous rotation."
The asteroid made its closest approach to Earth on May 31, the day the footage was captured by NASA. But the asteroid never posed any real risk to the planet -- the closest it approached was 5.8 million kilometres, or 15 times the distance between the Earth and the moon.
It is not expected to come that close again for at least the next 200 years.
QE2 is one of the largest known asteroids to pass by Earth and is believed to be comparable in size to the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.
The Deep Space Network antenna, located in Goldstone, Calif., is 70 metres wide and uses radar to track planetary activity in space.