Asteroid (4179) Toutatis to Pass Closely By Earth on Wednesday, September 29, 2004
NASA's Near Earth Object Program Office
September 27, 2004
Toutatis, a potato-shaped asteroid about 4.6 km (3 miles) in its longest extent, will pass within 1,550,000 km (963,000 miles) of the Earth's center on Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - reaching its closest approach at 13:35:28 GMT (06:35:28 PDT). This is roughly four times the distance from the Earth to the moon and closer than this asteroid has come to Earth since at least the twelfth century. Toutatis will not pass this closely again for the next 500 years. The passage is the closest Earth approach this century for a known asteroid of this size. Because of an extensive set of optical and radar observations, the orbit for Toutatis is one of the best determined of any asteroid and there is no chance that this object will collide with the Earth during this encounter - or any other encounter for at least 5 centuries.
With the help of Toutatis radar observations, a shape and rotation model for this object has been developed. Details on this work by Steve Ostro, R. Scott Hudson and colleagues can be found at:
School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Washington State University
Simulations of the asteroid's rotation in space can be found here and here.
Here's a rough radar image taken of Toutatis (on my birthday in 1996 no less!)
Here's an artist rendering-
Three miles across. Moving at 7.1 miles per second. For comparison, the moon moves in its orbit around the Earth at about 0.6 miles per second. So this 3 mile wide potato rock is cruisin' pretty damn fast.
Someone tell me again what we have available to deflect something like this? Anyone? Bueller?
That's what I thought.......