Student team provides real-time video of asteroid Toutatis

Dec 11, 2012
The Clay Center Observatory’s main instrument is this reflector with a 25-inch (0.64-m) aperture.

(Phys.org)—An asteroid that some day might threaten Earth is passing relatively close by on the night of December 11–12, and its gliding path among the stars will be tracked by a team of high-school students at the Clay Center Observatory in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Weather permitting, real-time high-definition video from the 's 25-inch-diameter telescope will be available from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. (EST) on December 11th and can be freely accessed via the observatory's Ustream channel.

The asteroid, known as 4179 Toutatis, is a lumpy, elongated object roughly 3 miles (5 km) long. It circles the Sun in a looping oval that ranges from just inside Earth's orbit to well beyond Mars. This orbit is unstable, and some day Toutatis might collide with Earth or be flung by Jupiter into the Sun or completely out of the system.

Toutatis returns to Earth's vicinity every 4 years, and this time around it will come its closest at a distance of 4.3 million miles (6.9 million km) at 1:40 a.m. EST on December 12th (10:40 p.m. PST on the 11th). For a few days, the asteroid will appear bright enough to be visible in moderate to large backyard telescopes as it glides through the constellations of Cetus and Pisces, which are currently high in the evening sky.

The Clay Center Observatory is located on the campus of the Dexter and Southfield Schools in Brookline, Massachusetts. A team of students led by Nicholas Weber, Nicholas Veo, and Samuel Lapides will coordinate the observations. They will record changes in the 's brightness over time to determine its and to provide a visual counterpart to being conducted in California and Puerto Rico.

Explore further: Start of dwarf planet mission delayed after small mix-up

Related Stories

ESO Views of Earth-Approaching Asteroid Toutatis

Sep 29, 2004

Unique Photos from La Silla and Paranal Measure the Distance Today, September 29, 2004, is undisputedly the Day of Toutatis, the famous "doomsday" asteroid. Not since the year 1353 did this impressive "space rock" pas ...

Biggest asteroid in 35 years swings close to Earth

Nov 09, 2011

(AP) -- An asteroid as big as an aircraft carrier zipped by Earth on Tuesday in the closest encounter by such a massive space rock in more than three decades. Scientists ruled out any chance of a collision ...

New horseshoe orbit Earth-companion asteroid discovered

Apr 06, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Apostolos Christou and David Asher from the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland announced the discovery of an asteroid near Earth called Asteroid 2010 SO16 and their findings were published ...

NASA radar images asteroid 2007 PA8

Nov 06, 2012

(Phys.org)—Scientists working with NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., have obtained several radar images depicting near-Earth asteroid 2007 PA8. The images ...

Recommended for you

Can sound help us detect 'earthquakes' on Venus?

Apr 23, 2015

Detecting an "earthquake" on Venus would seem to be an impossible task. The planet's surface is a hostile zone of crushing pressure and scorching temperatures—about 874 degrees F, hot enough to melt lead—that ...

Titan's atmosphere useful in study of hazy exoplanets

Apr 23, 2015

With more than a thousand confirmed planets outside of our solar system, astronomers are attempting to identify the atmospheres of these distant bodies to determine if they could possibly host life.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.