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A colossal asteroid will cruise by Earth today, and you’ll actually be able to see it

Published Sep 1st, 2017 11:05AM EDT
asteroid florence
Image: Hubble Space Telescope / ESA

The asteroid known as Florence is going to make a relatively close shave of Earth today, speeding past our planet closer than it has since the year 1890. But asteroids make their presence known around Earth on a regular basis, so why is this one special? Well, because Florence is absolutely huge, and would pose an incredible threat to life as we know it if it were to actually collide with us. Thankfully, NASA says that’s not going to happen — at least not this time around.

Florence, which was named for Florence Nightingale, measures 2.7 miles across. When compared to the vast majority of space rocks that visit our neck of the Solar System, it’s a real giant. For comparison, the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago is estimated to have been around six miles wide. If an asteroid the size of Florence were to strike Earth, it might not be the end of life, but it would definitely cause devastation on a scale never before experienced by humanity.

The good news here is that astronomers have a pretty good handle on exactly where Florence will pass by our planet, and it’ll be a good distance away. NASA says the asteroid will cruise past us at a distance of around 4.4 million miles, which might sound like a lot, but that’s still pretty close when taking into account the size of the Solar System.

In fact, it’ll be close enough that amateur astronomers will even be able to catch a glimpse of it. If you have a decent consumer-grade telescope you’ll be able to observe Florence as it passes by, and the folks over at Sky & Telescope have put together a great guide on where and when to look for the rock in the sky.

Florence won’t make another close pass around these parts for several hundred years, and NASA says we won’t be seeing it until sometime after the year 2500, so if you have a chance to catch a glimpse of it yourself, now will be your last opportunity, unless you discover the secret of immortality. If you do, hit me up.