No cause for alarm even though this giant asteroid is 4.4 kilometers (2.7 miles) in size.
It’s just passing by, not hitting our planet directly.
Comets excite people. Like Halley’s Comet which debris of rock and ice in space are responsible for those breathtaking Orionid and Eta Aquarid meteor showers which we see every year when our planet intersects with its orbit.
But mention asteroid coming close to Earth, and what people quickly recall is the horrible cause of the dinosaur extinction.
However, Florence, even though it’s called the mother of near-Earth asteroids, is purely harmless according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It’s just passing by our planet at a safe distance of 7 million kilometers (4.4 million miles), equivalent to 18x the distance between Earth and the moon.
This asteroid was first discovered by Schelte “Bobby” Bus at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia in 1981. It was named after the English heroine, Florence Nightingale.
The last time Florence appeared was in 1890, and after this year’s appearance it would only be seen again in 2050. What makes this September 1 event very significant is that this is the first time that this asteroid will be coming at this very close range.
“Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA program to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began,” says Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). And to be able to study Florence’s appearance and measure it more accurately, radars have been already set up in California and Puerto Rico.
Indeed, through its Near Earth Object Observations program at the CNEOS, NASA has been able to successfully find more than 90 per cent of near-Earth asteroids which are bigger than 1 kilometer and other near-Earth objects bigger than 140 meters. As much as many people enjoy star-gazing, the agency is in constant watch of anything coming close to our planet that may endanger our existence.
Every day, according to NASA, more than 100 tons of dust and sand-sized matters bombard Earth.
About once a year, an asteroid as big as an automobile hits our planet’s atmosphere and appears like a fireball as it burns up and quickly disappears.
However, it’s been also documented that a celestial object as big as a football field comes and crashes on Earth every 2,000 years or so, which causes serious damage on the place of impact and its surroundings.
And once in every few million years, something like the asteroid that created the Chicxulub Crater in Mexico (which ended the age of the dinosaurs) comes by.
But, sometimes, it doesn’t take a thousand years for something mysterious to happen involving a rocky object from space. In Siberia, in 1908, residents in the Tonguska region experienced a blinding explosion that destroyed 2,000 square kilometers of forest and killed 80 million trees near Podkamennaya Tunguska River.
Following the explosion, there seemed to be a powerful earth quake which shattered windows in the nearest village over 60 kilometers away. Some people got blown off their feet, while others felt intense heat.
Based on the BBC news report about the Tonguska event, the energy that was produced by that mysterious impact was around 185 times more than that of the atomic bomb that hit Hiroshima.
Yet, it took a century for experts to arrive at a definitive conclusion as to the cause of the destructive explosion.
It was a 120-foot asteroid.