Sci-Tech

NASA greets Earth-buzzing asteroid Florence in September

A large asteroid named Florence will thrill astronomers when it comes in for a September flyby of Earth.

This animation shows Florence's trail past Earth.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Say hello to Florence. Florence is an asteroid. 

Florence is 2.7 miles (4.4 kilometers) across and will come within a celestial spitting distance of Earth on Sept. 1 when it closes to within around 4.4 million miles (7 million kilometers) of our fair planet. 

What makes Florence so interesting is the size of the asteroid combined with its visit to our neighborhood in space. NASA shared a GIF on Thursday showing the asteroid's travel route.

"Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA program to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began," says NASA's Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies. A Near-Earth Object (NEO) is a comet or asteroid with an orbital path that brings it close to our planet.

NASA plans to take advantage of the asteroid's close approach to capture radar images and learn more about Florence's surface features. 

The name "Florence" is a tribute to Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Astronomers first spotted the asteroid in 1981. The asteroid won't get this close to Earth again until after 2500. 

Amateur astronomers can also get in on the fun. The asteroid should be visible to small telescopes starting in late August. 

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