Skip Navigation: Avoid going through Home page links and jump straight to content
spacer spacer spacer
spacer spacer spacer
spacer
NASA Logo    + View the NASA Portal  
Near Earth Object Program
spacer
spacer spacer spacer
spacer
NEO Basics Search Programs Discovery Statistics Accessible NEAs News Frequently Asked Questions
spacer
spacer spacer spacer
spacer
Orbit Diagrams Orbit Elements Close Approaches Impact Risk Images Related LInks
spacer
spacer spacer spacer
spacer

Asteroid (4179) Toutatis to Pass Closely By Earth on Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Don Yeomans
Paul Chodas
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:

http://www.eecs.wsu.edu/~hudson/Research/Asteroids/4179/

Simulations of the asteroid's rotation in space can be found at:

http://reason.jpl.nasa.gov/~ostro/ToutatisHires.mov
http://reason.jpl.nasa.gov/~ostro/ToutatisHires.avi

Oblique view of the Toutatis flyby at the time of closest
approach, with the Moon's orbit drawn in for scale. Diagram showing edge-on view of how Toutatis passes the Earth well under the ecliptic plane, which is shown as a straight line
Diagrams by P.W. Chodas (JPL/Caltech)

The two diagrams above show the circumstance of the asteroid flyby of the Earth. The first shows an oblique view of the flyby at the time of closest approach, with the Moon's orbit drawn in for scale. Toutatis approaches the Earth from the right in this diagram, passing from outside the Earth's orbit to inside on a path that passes beneath the ecliptic plane (the plane of the Earth's orbit). The second diagram is an edge-on view showing how Toutatis passes the Earth well under the ecliptic plane, which is shown as a straight line. Again, the Moon's orbit is shown for scale; note that it is slightly inclined to the ecliptic plane.

Additional Information


Added: September 29, 2004

Toutatis Animations

Animation of Asteroid 4179 Toutatis flying by the Earth between 10:55 and 11:05 UT on September 28, 2004.

Click on image to see Animation (1.3 MB)

Animation of Asteroid 4179 Toutatis flying by the Earth between 10:55 and 11:05 UT on September 28, 2004. Animation courtesy of Scott Sinclair from Automated Patrol Telescopes Australia. Images taken with a Meade LX200 10" at F/4.5 and consists of 50 x 8 second exposures (15 second separation). Field of view is FOV 14 x 21 arc minutes.


toutatis4_s.gif

Click on image to see Animation (1.4 MB)

Animation of Asteroid 4179 Toutatis flying by the Earth between 01:41 to 01:52 UT on September 29, 2004. Animation courtesy of Gianluca Masi, Franco Mallia and Roger Wilcox. Images taken with SoTIE 14-inch at f7 and AP& + Paramount GT-1000S.

Menu
FIRST GOV   NASA Home Page Site Manager: Don Yeomans
Webmaster: Ron Baalke
Last Updated:
Feedback Credits Privacy Mailing List NASA