A NASA rendition of asteroid 4179 Toutatis (Photo : NASA)
Doomsday fetishists rejoice. It seems that a giant asteroid will be passing relatively close to Earth on the night of Tuesday, Dec. 11. The asteroid is expected to come as close as 4.3-million miles from our planet Earth.
The 3-mile wide asteroid is roughly half the size of the asteroid believed to have killed off the dinosaurs and is shaped like a peanut. Named 4179 Toutatis, the asteroid is currently listed as a potentially hazardous space object, whose collision with Earth would have dramatic consequences.
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Watch this video of asteroid 4179 Toutatis on Dec. 8 through the Virtual Telescope Project:
Don't worry though, at 4.3-million miles, Toutatis will be 18 times the distance between the Earth and the moon (lunar distances), and scientists agree the chances of a collision are incredibly slim. The only long-term issue is that Toutatis operates on a slightly chaotic orbit, making it difficult to predict the distant future.
The Slooh Space Camera held a live stream of the asteroid's passing.
"We will be tracking Asteroid Toutatis live from two observatory locations - Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa and Arizona," president of Slooh Patrick Paolucci said.
The asteroid Toutatis was first discovered in 1934, then lost in space until it was rediscovered in 1989 when it was then named after the Celtic god Teutates by astronomer Christian Pollas. In 2004, Toutatis came incredibly close - a mere four lunar distances - but left without a scathing trail of destruction.
Toutatis is expected to pass by Earth again in 2016.
If you have the chance to observe Toutatis, and are lucky enough to snap some amateur photographs, send in your shots since we'd love to share them with everybody.