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August 31st, 2017

Asteroid Florence's Meet and Greet with Earth Will Be Scope-Viewable

Asteroid Florence, a large near-Earth asteroid, will pass safely by Earth on September 1, 2017, at a distance of about 4.4 million miles (0.047 a.u.). The image is courtesy of NASA / JPL-Caltech.

Bob King of Sky & Space Telescope has noted at that publication's infosite that Florence, one of the largest Earth-approaching asteroids, is getting close enough to Earth to see in a small telescope, both this week and next.

No sooner is the total solar eclipse over and here comes a big, bright, near-Earth asteroid to shake things up again — 3122 Florence, one of the largest near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), will safely fly past the planet at a distance of about 7 million km (4.4 million miles) around 8:00 a.m Eastern Daylight Time (12:00h UT) on September 1.

Many are thinking that there's no way this pass will be seen, given the time of day and that skepticism is warranted. Lots of these Earth-approachers are only visible for a matter of hours in amateur scopes before they precipitously fade from view. 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 — at least for a near-Earth object — with a diameter of 4.4 km (2.7 miles) — and it's not moving so fast that you need a handful of maps to tail it.

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 at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA program to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began.”

And no scope is available to view this approach, the asteroid's travels can be watched in real time on Gianluca Masi's Virtual Telescope Project site on August 31 starting at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight (19:30 UT). The Bareket Observatory in Israel will also webcast live views of Florence on September 1 from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight (19:00–22:00 UT).

To read the entire, informative Sky & Space Telescope article, please access this direct link...