Large Asteroid To Fly Past Earth In September

Posted: Aug 19 2017, 9:17am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Large Asteroid to Fly Past Earth in September
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The encounter on September 1 is the closest for an asteroid of this size

A giant asteroid will fly by Earth on September 1, 2017.

The asteroid designated Florence will whizz past Earth at a distance of about 4.4 million miles or about 18 times the distance from Earth to the moon. Florence is one of biggest near-Earth asteroids and is estimated to be 14,000 feet wide. By comparison, the asteroid that caused Chelyabinsk Event in 2013 was approximately 65 feet (20 meters) wide.

Small asteroids fly past Earth several times every week but this will be the closest approach for an asteroid of this size. Researchers have determined there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet.

“While many known asteroids have passed by closer to Earth than Florence will on September 1, all of those were estimated to be smaller," said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS)."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 was first spotted in March 1981 by astronomer Schelte "Bobby" Bus at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. Since that time, it has been observed by various telescopes. The asteroid is named after nurse and social reformer Florence Nightingale.

The last time Florence asteroid was in Earth’s neighborhood was in1890 and its next close encounter wont’ happen for at least four centuries or until after 2500. The asteroid will become visible for several nights in early September and will provide an opportunity for scientists to study the object up close.

Despite the fact that Florence has been discovered centuries ago, astronomers still know very little about its physical properties. That is why radar imaging is planned at NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar in California and at the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Radar has been used to observe hundreds of asteroids before. It is a powerful technique for studying an asteroid's size, shape, rotation, surface features and roughness and for more precise determination of their orbital path. The high resolution radar images of Asteroid Florence will help determine the real size of the object. They could also reveal asteroid's surface details as small as about 30 feet.

Source: NASA

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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