The lumpy, peanut-like 4179 Toutatis will pass within 37 million miles of the Earth this afternoon, and Slooh is all over it.
Toutatis passes us by about once every four years, and while it will be 18 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon away, astronomers are still pretty excited to watch it tumble through space. The thing about Toutatis is, it’s a bit strange. The 3 mile-wide asteroid has a goofy shape and the way it rolls through space has researchers believing that its mass is not evenly distributed. Astronomers will be using this pass to learn more about what exactly the space rock is made of.
While Toutatis is classified as a “potentially hazardous asteroid” (37 million miles isn’t that far, relative to our solar system), we have a few hundred years before Toutatis should be anywhere withing striking range of Earth. If that day comes we may have a problem; Toutatis is about half the size of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.
But for now, we can simply enjoy the spectacle courtesy of the Slooh Space Camera.