Speed Reads

look up

A nearly 3-mile-wide asteroid zips past Earth tonight

The biggest asteroid to pass Earth since recordkeeping began will cruise by beginning Friday night, and backyard stargazers will be able to spot it with a telescope, Time reports. Asteroid Florence is 2.7 miles across, but it will pass by at a safe distance of 4.4 million miles. "It's possible this asteroid could threaten our planet in the far distant future, but it's unlikely," Paul Chodas of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies told CNN.

At almost three miles wide, Florence will throw off a lot of light — it will appear about as bright as a 9th magnitude star, with its best chance of being seen being from a small telescope around 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

You'll want to take a look if you can — Florence hasn't been this close since 1890 and won't pass as close again until 2500. "Nothing this big has passed this close to Earth since we've been tracking," Chodas told Space.com. "This is a once-in-40-year-event kind of thing."

Learn how to spot Florence from your telescope at Sky & Telescope, or watch it online here.