Asteroid 3122 Florence flyby illustration

Asteroid 3122 Florence flyby illustration

A scaled illustration of the flyby of 3122 Florence. On September 1, 2017, it skimmed past Earth from a mere 4.4 million miles (7 million km) distance – which is about 20 times the distance between Earth and Moon. Image: NASA

3122 Florence was discovered on 2 March 1981 by American astronomer Schelte J. “Bobby” Bus at Siding Spring Observatory. It was named in honor of Florence Nightingale (12 May 1820 – 13 August 1910), the English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. It is classified as a near-Earth object (NEO)(1) and potentially hazardous object (PHO)(2). It is really big that if it would the Earth, it could cause a major extinction event. It is almost as big as the Chicxulub asteroid which hit the Earth 66 million years ago, also known as the “dinosaur killer“.

The September 2017 encounter of 3122 Florence was the closest by this asteroid since 1890 and will remain the closest it will ever be until after 2500.

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