A massive near-Earth asteroid will pass safely by Earth on September 1, 2017, at a distance of about 4.4 million miles or 7 million kilometers, or in astronomical terms - about 18 Earth-Moon distances, NASA has reported.
Asteroid Florence, named in honour of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, is among the largest near-Earth asteroids that are several miles in size. Measurements from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission indicate that it is about 2.7 miles or 4.4 kilometers in size.
"While many asteroids have passed by closer to Earth than Florence will on September 1, all of those were estimated to be smaller,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA program to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began.”
Asteroid Florence was discovered by Schelte “Bobby” Bus at Siding Spring Observatory in Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia in March 1981.
The 2017 encounter is the closest by this asteroid since 1890 and the closest it will ever be until after 2050, according to the US space agency. Florence will brighten to ninth magnitude in late August and early September, when it will be visible in small telescopes for several nights as it moves through the constellations Piscis Austrinus, Capricornus, Aquarius, and Delphinus.
NASA has said that this relatively close encounter provides an opportunity for the scientists to study this asteroid up close. Florence is expected to be an excellent target for ground-based radar observations. The resulting radar images will show the real size of Florence and also could reveal surface details as small as about 30 feet or 10 meters.
Information source: NASA
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