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Largest-ever asteroid is about to fly by Earth

Published Aug 24th, 2017 7:27PM EDT
asteroid flyby
Image: Hubble Space Telescope / ESA

Near-Earth objects make passes by our planet on a fairly regular basis, but the space rock that’s going to cruise by on September 1st is a real goliath. Named Florence, the massive asteroid is thought to be the largest object to make such a close approach to Earth since NASA decided to start keeping records for that sort of thing. The good news is that scientists don’t believe it poses much of a threat — at least this time around.

While many near-Earth asteroids that safely pass our planet are comparable in size to busses or even houses, Florence is quite a bit larger than any of those. The asteroid, which is named for Florence Nightingale, measures a whopping 2.7 miles across, making it a real world-killer if it were to ever actually collide with us. Thankfully, NASA doesn’t believe that’s going to happen any time soon.

When Florence makes its pass on September 1st it’ll be at a distance of about 4.4 million miles. That’s approximately 18 times the distance between our planet and the moon, but it’s still close enough for NASA and astronomers from around the world to grab some great observations of the colossal space rock.

NASA has also forecasted Florence’s movements in the future and, assuming the calculations are accurate (it’s NASA, so we’ll guess that they are), Florence won’t make it this close to Earth again for several hundreds of years. In fact, the asteroid won’t make another approach like this until sometime after the year 2500, so don’t lose too much sleep over it.