Last week, scientists at NASA got the chance to study an asteroid which flew at one of the closest distances from Earth such a massive object had ever achieved. In fact, Florence, as this was its name, was the biggest of its kind to fly so close to Earth in more than a century. It was so big that it even had its own moons.
Florence is so big that it has two moons orbiting around it
On August 31st and September 1st, researchers managed to get some clear satellite images of Florence. They were already aware of the impressive size of the asteroid, but they weren’t prepared for the discovery they made. After taking a close look at the images, they noticed two moons orbiting around it.
Many other asteroids flew by Earth even closer than Florence. However, no other asteroid of such size came at a close distance. Paul Chodas, scientist at the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, admitted the uniqueness of Florence.
“Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA program to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began.”
Two-moon asteroids are quite rare
Yet, how big is the asteroid that it even got two smaller objects orbiting around it? Our Florence measures only 2.7 miles across, which doesn’t sound so massive. In fact, its moons are quite small. They don’t have more than 1,000 feet across. Also, the inner moon doesn’t take more than eight hours to perform a complete orbit, while the timing for the outer moon is of 22 or 27 hours.
It’s not unheard of to see an asteroid with a moon. However, having two moons is a bit more atypical. Florence is only the third asteroid known to fly close to Earth to have two objects around it. From all these three, this came the closest to our planet.
Image Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory