Asteroid Florence will come within a safe distance of seven million kilometres from the Earth (or "18 Earth-Moon" distances) at its closest approach this weekend, giving stargazers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a shiny, mountain-sized space rock approximately 4.4km in diameter.
The closest passing of a large asteroid to Earth will happen Friday, according to scientists who study "near-Earth objects".
While its distance from the Earth will be quite great at 4.4 million miles, you can still witness the rare event.
"While many known asteroids have passed by closer to Earth than Florence will on September 1, all of those were estimated to be smaller", NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) Manager Paul Chodas said earlier this month from Pasadena, California.
Florence, named after Florence Nightingale, was discovered by USA astronomer Schelte "Bobby" Bus in 1981 while he was working at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia.
Asteroid Set to Make 'Near-Earth' Flyby Friday
Florence has been assigned an asteroid catalog number of 3122.
According to Sky & Telescope magazine, Florence viewing might have a little interference given the fact that the moon reached its first-quarter phase on Tuesday, raising its level of brightness.
The best moment to see the asteroid from the US will be 8 p.m. EDT on Saturday, according to S&T, as this is when the asteroid will pass much dimmer stars. The asteroid's distance from the sun ranges from 1.0 to 2.5 astronomical units and it has an orbital period of 2.4 years.
"I'm not losing any sleep over Florence", said Carrie Nugent, scientist at Cal Tech/IPAC and author of "Asteroid Hunters".
JPL manages and operates NASA's Deep Space Network, including the Goldstone Solar System Radar, and hosts the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies for NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program, an element of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office within the agency's Science Mission Directorate. Observing close flybys like this also helps prepare teams to detect a near-Earth asteroid whose course might pose a threat to Earth.
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