Astronomy

‘Planet destroying asteroid’ Florence to skim past Earth today

Earth: Florence, the biggest asteroid ever recorded will pass by Earth at a relatively close distance of 4.4 million miles (7.0 million kilometers) on September 1, Nasa says.

Florence measures 2.7 miles (4.4 km) in size will be at about 18 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, close enough to categorise it as a ‘near-Earth asteroid’.

The orbital calculations, spanning 40 years, clearly indicate that asteroid Florence poses no risk of colliding with Earth for many centuries to come.

“Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the [American space agency] Nasa program to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began [over a century ago],” Paul Chodas, manager of Nasa’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, said in a statement.

Scientists plan to study the asteroid up close, using ground-based radar imaging in California and Puerto Rico. Using radar arrays on the ground, the space agency reckons it can capture pictures of Florence with surface details as small as 10m (30 feet).

Asteroid Florence was discovered by Schelte “Bobby” Bus at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia in March 1981.

Named in honor of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the founder of modern nursing, the asteroid Florence would cause massive destruction were it to hit the Earth.

The asteroid known to have wiped out the dinosaurs is believed to have measured six miles across. Florence measures roughly half that and so would still cause cataclysmic damage.

The 2017 encounter that will occur around 5.35 p.m. (IST) on Friday is the closest by this asteroid since 1890 and the closest it will ever be until after 2500.

You can watch it live at Virtual Telescope Project. A telescope or a pair of binoculars might also help!

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