The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced that one of the largest near-Earth asteroids will safely fly past the planet on Sept. 1 at a distance of 7 million kilometers.
NASA says the next time the 4.4-km large asteroid Florence will fly close to Earth again will be after the year 2500, which is why scientists are keeping tabs on the celestial body for the upcoming flyby.
Scientists are already preparing ground-based radars to be able to study asteroid Florence up close.
Near, Far, Wherever They Are
Some may be curious as to why astronomers are hyped over asteroid Florence's flyby, especially since Asteroid 2012 TC4 will be skimming past Earth only 44,000 km away on Oct. 12, but NASA scientists explain that it's not only the distance but the size difference between the two space rocks that makes it exciting.
"While many known asteroids have passed by closer to Earth than Florence will on Sept. 1, all of those were estimated to be smaller. Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA program to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began," NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) manager Paul Chodas explains.
While Asteroid 2012 TC4 may be seen with the naked eye because of its close proximity to Earth when it passes, anyone would be able to spot asteroid Florence with a small telescope even if it is millions of kilometers away because that's just how big it is.
"[Its] visible magnitude of 9 is really bright. Every amateur astronomer will be able to see it," European Space Agency's Near Earth Object segment co-manager Rüdiger Jehn said.
Anyone who is interested to observe asteroid Florence should be able to find it somewhere along the constellations Piscis Austrinus, Capricornus, Aquarius, and Delphinus from around Aug. 29 to Sept. 8.
Below is NASA's GIF representation of asteroid Florence's flyby.
Asteroid Florence Was Not An Italian Discovery
Asteroid Florence was first discovered in 1981 by American astronomer Schelte Bus who was, at that time, working at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia.
Asteroid Florence, named after the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, has been classified as a potentially hazardous near-Earth object. That may or may not be half of a binary system.
Asteroid Florence's flyby on Sept. 1 will help scientists determine if it really has a satellite and learn more about its binary system.