Wednesday, September 28, 2011

This Day in History September 29, 2004

This is an artist's rendition of what passed close to the earth but a few years ago--this date in 2004.   It is a picture of 4179 Toutatis.  And of course, now everything is as clear as mud, right? Everyone remembers this momentous occasion after all, right?  Right??

Okay, I have never heard of this asteroid before today.  So read on and you just might learn something--just like I did!  This asteroid is the size of a mountain (1.2 miles x 1.4 miles x 2.9 miles).   It is named after the little known Celtic and Gallic god.  This unusually-shaped "yam" asteroid does not act like the majority of asteroids.  It tumbles instead of spinning around an axis.  It was first discovered in 1989 (though it was noticed first back in 1934).

When it passed earth just a few years ago, it was traveling 24,550 miles per hour.  It closeness when it passed by earth is measured in lunar distance.  That is the distance from the earth to the moon.  It was 4 lunar distances away from us when it passed by.  While that does not seem close, astronomically it gives rise to concern.  There is growing concern that it will eventually collide with the earth.  The next time it will come close to the earth is 2562.  So I think it safe to say that if it does crash into the earth, no one alive today will be alive then.

If you want to play around with a computerized video of the asteroid, click here:;orb=1

If you would like some more information, check out these sites:

As exciting as this is, however, it is even more exciting that this is my mother's 68th birthday! This means more to me than an asteroid.  I'm not sure what my daughter would say, however.  She does love space!


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