BIG ASTEROID FLYBY: Large near-Earth asteroid 4179 Toutatis is flying past Earth this week. At closest approach on Dec. 12th, it will be 7 million km away, or 18 times farther than the Moon.
Images of the asteroid illuminated by NASA’s Goldstone radar in the Mojave desert.
Measuring 5 km in length, Toutatis is one of the largest known potentially hazardous asteroids and its orbit is inclined less than half-a-degree from Earth’s.
No other kilometer-sized PHA moves around the Sun in an orbit so nearly coplanar with our own. This makes it an important target for asteroid studies.
Fortunately, there is no danger of a collision with Toutatis for hundreds of years.
Radar observations should improve researchers’ ability to predict the asteroid’s trajectory even farther into the future. Goldstone will pinging Toutatis from now until Dec. 22nd.
Below two videos of the asteroid: