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Huge Earth-Passing Asteroid an 'Entirely New Beast'

by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 15 June 2013 Time: 07:00 AM ET

A big asteroid that flew past Earth last month belongs to a new category of space rock, scientists say.

Asteroid 1998 QE2 and its moon sailed within 3.6 million miles (5.8 million kilometers) of Earth on May 31, making their closest approach to our planet for at least the next two centuries. New radar images captured by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico are revealing just how unique this binary asteroid is, researchers say.

“Asteroid QE2 is dark, red, and primitive — that is, it hasn’t been heated or melted as much as other asteroids," Arecibo's Ellen Howell said in a statement. "QE2 is nothing like any asteroid we've visited with a spacecraft, or plan to, or that we have meteorites from. It's an entirely new beast in the menagerie of asteroids near Earth." [Potentially Dangerous Asteroids (Images)]

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