A 3 miles wide massive Asteroid named “Florence” had a close encounter with earth this Friday. The huge space rock had passed just 4.4 million miles from the earth which is about 18 times the distance between the moon and Earth. This is the closest an asteroid of this size has come since began tracking near earth object, according to NASA.
It hasn’t come this close since 1890. In fact it won’t be this close again until 2,500. This asteroid has given an opportunity to the scientists to study it up close through ground-based radar observations.
According to NASA, if Florence does have a partner chance, then we will spot it in the coming days. Kelly Beatty, a senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine noted, “Despite some interference from moonlight, 3122 Florence should be fairly easy to spot in even modest backyard telescopes”.
Florence appears bright, despite being far away, both because it’s among the largest near-Earth asteroid. It has a bright surface which reflects more than 20 percent of the sunlight that strikes it. If we compare it with the Moon’s average reflectivity, then it is just 12%. NASA says, “Asteroid Florence will safely fly past Earth at a distance of about 4.4 million miles (7 million kilometres)”.
It is not the closest encounter our planet has seen, but for this distance, experts say this is the largest. Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says, “While many known asteroids have passed by closer to Earth than Florence will on September 1, all of those were estimated to be smaller”.
He also said, “Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA program to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began”. The asteroid named Florence, was first spotted in 1981. It was first discovered in Siding Spring observatory in Australia. It was discovered by asteroid hunter Schelte J Bus on the night of 2 March 1981 and orbits the sun once every 859 days. It won’t come this much close again until 2,500. According to Bob King in Sky and Telescope, “Lots of these Earth-approachers are only visible for a matter of hours in amateur scopes before they precipitously fade from view”.
[Although Florence reaches peak brightness on Friday night it should remain nearly this bright for several days before and afterwards. Note that the labelled dates on this chart mark the asteroid’s location at 0:00 Universal Time (01:00 BST/ 20:00 ET the previous day). The two dark areas, labelled Chart A and Chart B, correspond to the detailed charts further down]
[It will be gliding northward by a little less than the full Moon’s diameter each hour, motion that should be obvious by watching the asteroid’s star-like pinpoint through a telescope for just a few minutes. Note that the labelled dates on this chart mark the asteroid’s location at 23:00 ET (04:00 BST the following day)]
Bob King also says, “‘They’re just so tiny and move so fast. Not Florence. It’s neither tiny nor in a terrible hurry. Matter of fact, it’s a beast. Some of you will be able to pick it up in binoculars, and anyone with a 4-inch or larger telescope should kill it”.
The asteroid is large enough to end life. But NASA says this won’t happen this week. Experts say, “An impact of this size would have a ‘very severe global impact’ for several years and would cause the world to become a much darker, colder and drier place”. According to experts from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, “At 2.7 miles wide (4.3km) an impact with Florence could be devastating to life as we know it. However, it would take an asteroid around 6 miles wide (9.7km) or more to cause mass extinction”.