Asteroid 1998 QE2’s recent flyby was a great opportunity for scientists to learn more about the space rock and asteroids in general.
QE2 didn't disappoint, as astronomers are now convinced that it belongs to an entirely new class from which we have no samples and very little data.
It's unlike any of the asteroids that have created meteorites on Earth, or which have been studied by a probe.
"Asteroid QE2 is dark, red, and primitive – that is, it hasn't been heated or melted as much as other asteroids," Dr. Ellen Howell, with the Arecibo Observatory, explained.
Astronomers used the powerful Arecibo radio telescope not just as a receiver this time, but also as a transmitter. They shot powerful radio waves towards the asteroid and observed their reflection returning to Earth.
By using this radar system, astronomers were able to see the shape of the asteroid in much greater detail.
The advantage of using radar over conventional optical telescopes is that the target doesn't have to be lighted to pick up the details. Every bump, every crater, and every mark was visible to the radar.