3 Mile Wide Asteroid: See Video Of The Toutatis Near-Earth Fly-By [VIDEO]

By Staff Reporter on December 12, 2012 12:38 PM EST

Toutatis asteroid
NASA illustration of asteroid 4179 Toutatis (Photo: NASA)

Little can be as threatening as a supersized asteroid hurling through space at tens of thousands of miles an hour. Last night, the citizens of planet Earth looked up into the sky as the three-mile wide asteroid 4179 Toutatis made a cosmically close fly-by of 4.3 million miles from our planet.

Considering the vastness of space, the Toutatis asteroid was close enough for scientists to provide stargazers with a live stream of the event yesterday, December 11, 2012, that extended until Wednesday morning.

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Yesterday's report from Fox News announced that both Slooh Space Camera and the Virtual Telescope Project would provide a broadcast of the asteroid fly-by.

According to Astronomy Magazine columnist, Bob Berman, "Slooh technical staff will let the public follow this fast-moving asteroid in two different ways. In one view, the background stars will be tracked at their own rate and the asteroid will appear as an obvious streak or a moving time-lapse dot across the starry field.

"In a second view, Toutatis itself will be tracked and held steady as a tiny pointlike object, while Earth's spin makes the background stars whiz by as streaks. Both methods will make the asteroid's speedy orbital motion obvious as it passes us in space." Videos at Slooh will be provided by two powerful telescopes -- one at the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa, and another in Arizona.

The Virtual Telescope Project of Gianluca Masi of Bellatrix Astronomical Observatory, Italy, will provide a free webcast on Thursday at 3 p.m. EST and will also feature special commentary from astrophysicists.

4179 Toutatis was previously sighted in 1934 and was officially identified in 1989. An asteroid that orbits the sun once every four years, the 3-mile wide asteroid is currently listed as a potentially hazardous space object. While its current distance is 4.3 million miles, 18 times the distance from the moon and the Earth, the Toutatis possesses a rather chaotic orbit trajectory, causing calculations of its future distance rather difficult. No doubt, an asteroid at 3-miles wide will cause dramatic consequences if it impacts our planet. Millions of years ago, scientists believe that it was a 6-mile wide asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Asteroid Toutatis was seen for the first time in 1934 and then officially discovered in 1989. It goes around the sun once every four years and is expected to return for another near-earth fly-by in 2016.

Learn more about 4179 Toutatis. Be sure to take a look at the trajectory of the Toutatis asteroid in comparison to the orbits of the planets of our solar system. Also, a second video below from the Slooh Space Camera YouTube channel also shares an animation of Toutatis in space.

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