A near-Earth asteroid
about 4.4 km in size will pass safely by our planet on Friday, at a distance of about seven million km, NASA
Florence -- named in honour of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the founder of modern nursing - is set to pass by Earth
at 8.05 am ET.
"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.
"Florence is the largest asteroid
to pass by our planet this close since the NASA
programme to detect and track near-Earth
asteroids began," Chodas said.
The 2017 encounter that will occur around 5.35 pm on Friday (India time) is the closest by this asteroid
since 1890 and the closest it will ever be until after 2500.
Florence will brighten to ninth magnitude in late August and early September, when it will be visible in small telescopes for several nights as it moves through the constellations
Piscis Austrinus, Capricornus, Aquarius and Delphinus, NASA
This relatively close encounter provides an opportunity for scientists to study this asteroid
Florence was discovered by Schelte "Bobby" Bus at Siding Spring Observatory
in Australia in March 1981.
Florence is expected to be an excellent target for ground-based radar observations.
Radar imaging is planned at NASA's Goldstone Solar System
Radar in California and at the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory
in Puerto Rico.
The resulting radar images will show the real size of Florence and also could reveal surface details as small as about 10 metres.