IMAGE CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech
If the total solar eclipse helped you discover a new passion for sky watching, here’s another gift of a rarity. Discovered in 1981, a 2.7-mile-wide (4 km) asteroid, named 3122 Florence, is about to safely pass about 4.4 million miles (7 million km) from Earth on September 1st. This is about 18 times the distance between Earth and the Moon.
According to NASA, this is the closest an asteroid of this size has come to Earth since they first started tracking near earth objects. To clarify, while this isn’t the closest encounter we’ve had, it is by far the largest at this distance. It’s also believed that this is the closest the asteroid has been to Earth since 1890 and probably won’t come this close until after 2500.
3122 Florence is expected to be visible for several nights as it moves south to north through the constellations Piscis Austrinus, Capricornus, Aquarius, and Delphinus. However, the best time to catch the asteroid will be tonight, when its brightness is at magnitude 8.7. And in case you miss it tonight, keep an eye out on Sept. 2nd around 8 p.m. EST.
Unfortunately, since Florence is above magnitude 6.0, it’s won’t be visible to the naked eye. You’ll need either a lightweight telescope or possibly a pair of binoculars, depending on your location, to catch it. If you would much rather watch it online; Virtual Telescope will be broadcasting the event live.
Animation taken UTC: Start 2017-08-30 21:48:46 End 2017-08-30 22:53:00 Site: Riga Latvia By amateur astronomer Ingvars Tomsons Telescope: 600/80 0.6reduce CCD HEQ5.