Largest known near-Earth asteroid set to whizz past us in September

Alain Brian
Août 18, 2017

Asteroid Florence, which is one of the largest near-Earth asteroids, will pass safely by Earth on 1 September 2017 at a distance of seven million kilometres.

There are several reasons why this event will be special.

Asteroid Florence is among the largest near-Earth asteroids that are several miles in size.

NASA and other agencies began tracking potentially hazardous objects in 1998, in order to give us enough warning to send up Bruce Willis (or a pair of orbit-altering probes).

The 1 September fly-by will be the closest Florence has ever come to Earth since it was first spotted in 1980 and it will not get this close again until about 2500.

This is the closest an asteroid this large has come since NASA began its NEO-tracking program.

This relatively close encounter provides an opportunity for scientists to study this asteroid up close. As it reaches ninth magnitude, it will be visible passing by constellations Piscis Austrinus, Capricornus, Aquarius and Delphinus even with small telescopes, according to Nasa. This was reported on the website of the American space Agency. It will be an excellent target for radar observations from the ground, according to Nasa.

The U.S. space agency has radar imaging planned for its Goldstone system in California, and at the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

With these instruments, they will be able to see it's true size, and even observe surface details as small as about 30 feet (10 meters).

Now we are getting a visual reminder after NASA revealed that we are soon to be buzzed by an enormous asteroid called Florence, named in honour of the most famous of nurses, Florence Nightingale, when it was discovered in 1981.

When these small, natural remnants of the formation of the solar system pass relatively close to Earth, deep space radar is a powerful technique for studying their sizes, shapes, rotation, surface features and roughness, and for more precise determination of their orbital path.

The asteroid, dubbed 2012 TC4, first flitted past our planet in October 2012 at about double the distance of its next expected pass, before disappearing.

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