3-Mile-Wide Asteroid Is The Largest Earth-Buzzing Object NASA Has Ever Seen
For nearly 20 years NASA’s JPL Center for NEO Studies has been tracking near-Earth objects that whizz past our planet. The JPL Center continually monitors space for asteroids that could hit Earth and have the potential to be planet-killers. In the past two decades, NASA has never seen an Earth-buzzing object as massive as what’s flying by on September 1. On that day, a 3-mile-wide asteroid named Florence will be 4.4 million miles from Earth, or about 18 times the average Earth-Moon distance. Many asteroids have come closer, but they were much smaller than Florence. It will be close enough that it will be easily visible using a small telescope.
“While many known asteroids have passed by closer to Earth than Florence will on September 1, all of those were estimated to be smaller,” says Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). “Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA program to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began.”
Florence is the largest asteroid to pass this close to our planet since the first near-Earth asteroid was discovered over 100 years ago. Asteroid Florence was discovered in 1981 and named in honor of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Astronomers will use the near flyby to study Florence and take high-resolution photos to reveal what the surface of the asteroid is like. Florence is technically 2.7-miles-wide, but any object that is larger than 0.6 miles has the capability to end all life on Earth as we know it. NASA says Florence poses no threat to Earth for the next 500 years.
The next asteroid flyby after Florence comes in October when asteroid 2012 TC4 comes a little too close for comfort at a distance of 31,130 miles, but thankfully this rock is only 49-feet-wide.