One of the largest near-Earth asteroid measuring 4.4 km will pass safely by Earth on Friday at 5 PM, at a distance of about seven million kilometers, NASA has said.
Discovered on 2 March 1981 by American astronomer Schelte Bus at Siding Spring Observatory, Asteroid Florence is named after Florence Nightingale the founder of modern nursing. It is classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA), due to both its absolute magnitude (H ≤ 22) and its minimum orbit intersection distance.
"Florence is the largest asteroid to pass this close to our planet since the first near-Earth asteroid was discovered over a century ago", US space agency said in a statement.
"While many known asteroids have passed by closer to Earth than Florence. They were estimated to be smaller", said Paul Chodas, Manager of NASA’s Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
According to NASA, 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. Also, this year's encounter is the closest by the asteroid since 1890 and the closest it will ever be until after 2500.