If Monday’s approaching solar eclipse has you excited about astronomy, there’s some good news: Not even two weeks later, another rare feat will pass us by. And miss us, thankfully.
An asteroid called Florence will pass within 4.5 million miles of Earth on Sept. 1, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced in a Thursday press release.
That’s 18 times the distance from the Earth to the moon. If that doesn’t sound impressive, consider its size: At 2.7 miles, Florence is the largest asteroid to pass Earth since NASA began tracking near-Earth asteroids. And this particular asteroid won’t come this close again until 2500, NASA says.
Unfortunately, it won’t be visible to the naked eye. But with a small telescope, stargazers can catch Florence several nights between late August and early September, near the Capricornus and Aquarius constellations, according to JPL.
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If you’re looking for something a little closer to home, a smaller asteroid will make a close pass in October – this one much, much closer.
A house-sized asteroid will come within one-eighth the distance from Earth-to-moon on Oct. 12, The Guardian reported last Thursday, citing the European Space Agency.
“We know for sure that there is no possibility for this object to hit the Earth. There is no danger whatsoever,” Detlef Koschny of ESA’s near-Earth objects research team told Agence France-Presse.
That asteroid, called 2012 TC4, and Florence will give NASA and the ESA good opportunities to study near-Earth items and improve tracking networks, better preparing us in the event of potential collision threats in the future.
These asteroids are the next in a string of remarkable celestial occurrences coming in a short time span. Overshadowed a bit by the coming eclipse, the Perseid meteor shower hit its peak last Saturday night, but a bright moon washed out many meteors from view during one of the year’s most popular showers.