This Friday, a three-mile-wide asteroid named for Florence Nightingale, first spotted in 1981 is going to fly past Earth – the biggest space rock to pass our planet this close in a century.
Technically named Asteroid 1981 ET3 – also known as 3122 Florence – will fly past safely on September 1, 18 times further away than the moon.
‘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) at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
‘Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA program to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began.’
Asteroid Florence was discovered by Schelte “Bobby” Bus at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia in March 1981.
It is named in honor of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the founder of modern nursing.
The 2017 encounter is the closest by this asteroid since 1890 and the closest it will ever be until after 2500.
This relatively close encounter provides an opportunity for scientists to study this asteroid up close.
Florence is expected to be an excellent target for ground-based radar observations – and will also be visible to amateur astronomers via telescopes.
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. T
The resulting radar images will show the real size of Florence and also could reveal surface details as small as about 30 feet.