On Sept. 1, a large asteroid named Florence will come closer to Earth than any asteroid of its size for as long as NASA has been monitoring near-Earth asteroids. But don’t worry, Florence isn’t on track to hit us, this time at least.

The asteroid is about 2.7 miles in diameter, according to NASA’s best estimates. It was discovered in 1981 by S. J. Bus and was named Asteroid 3122 Florence after Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. It’s classified as “potentially hazardous” among all the near-Earth asteroids NASA tracks.

So just how close will “potentially hazardous” space rock come to Earth on Sept. 1? About 4.4 million miles. That’s about the distance between the Earth and the moon times 18. While it may seem far, it’s practically colliding in space distance. But it’s still enough distance that it will present no danger while offering scientists on Earth a front row seat for detailed observation.



The close approach is expected to present good ground-based radar observations, according to NASA. These observations could help provide new details about the asteroid like it’s exact size and any surface details. Previously this asteroid was only ever this close to Earth in 1890, and it won’t be this close again until 2500 so this is one of the only chances researchers will have to get a good up-close look at it from Earth.

As it gets closer it will become visible in small telescopes at night, probably around late August and the very beginning of September. As it is just a rock moving through space it won’t be particularly bright, although it will reflect light.

NASA is constantly tracking and watching asteroids that might cause any harm to Earth to ensure that if one is ever going to come dangerously close to hitting Earth, they would know. The Planetary Defense Coordination Office of NASA located in Washington D.C. handles these threats and tracking the asteroids. Most discoveries of new asteroids come from NASA telescopes around the world looking for new moving specks of light out in space. It takes a lot of attention to detail and cross referencing for astronomers and scientists to discover a new asteroid. Luckily when they do, it means researchers can track it.

Were an asteroid to ever be on track to hit Earth NASA would need to detect it early to be able to do anything about it. A couple of decades worth of warning would be ideal says NASA, and that’s not out of the question for the larger asteroids the agency tracks. With those decades there would be a few options to throwing the asteroid off track with a kinetic impactor or a gravity tractor.