Categories: Asteroids

Asteroid Toutatis Tumbles in New Video from NASA

NASA has compiled the radar images taken of Asteroid Toutatis during its flyby of Earth this week to create a short movie, which shows the asteroid slowly tumbling. The 64-frame movie was generated from data gathered on December 12 and 13, 2012 by NASA’s 70-meter Goldstone Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, California.

NASA provides more information about the video and (4179) Toutatis:

On Dec. 12, the day of its closest approach to Earth, Toutatis was about 18 lunar distances, 4.3 million miles (6.9 million kilometers) from Earth. On Dec. 13, the asteroid was about 4.4 million miles (7 million kilometers), or about 18.2 lunar distances.

The radar data images of asteroid Toutatis indicate that it is an elongated, irregularly shaped object with ridges and perhaps craters. Along with shape detail, scientists are also seeing some interesting bright glints that could be surface boulders. Toutatis has a very slow, tumbling rotational state. The asteroid rotates about its long axis every 5.4 days and precesses (changes the orientation of its rotational axis) like a wobbling, badly thrown football, every 7.4 days.

The orbit of Toutatis is well understood. The next time Toutatis will approach at least this close to Earth is in November of 2069, when the asteroid will safely fly by at about 7.7 lunar distances, or 1.8 million miles (3 million kilometers). An analysis indicates there is zero possibility of an Earth impact over the entire interval over which its motion can be accurately computed, which is about the next four centuries.

This radar data imagery will help scientists improve their understanding of the asteroid’s spin state, which will also help them understand its interior.

The resolution in the image frames is 12 feet (3.75 meters) per pixel.

Source: NASA

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004. She is the author of a new book on the Apollo program, "Eight Years to the Moon," which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible. Her first book, "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond.

Recent Posts

If There are Water Plumes on Europa, Here’s how Europa Clipper Will Study Them

NASA’s Europa Clipper is one of the most anticipated missions of the coming decade, in…

6 hours ago

Alan Shepard’s Daughter Will be Flying on the Next New Shepard Flight

For the 19th mission of the New Shepard rocket, Blue Origin has offered a seat…

3 days ago

NASA Plans to Retire the Space Station in 2030 and Replace it with Commercially Owned “Destinations” in Low Earth Orbit

While it may seem like the International Space Station is just now fully hitting its…

3 days ago

An Upcoming Asteroid Mission Will be Able to Peer 100 Meters Under the Surface

Engineers only get one shot at making a spacecraft work as intended.  Or at least…

3 days ago

Our Guide to the Only Total Solar Eclipse of 2021

This weekend, the shadow of the Moon graces the Earth one last time for the…

4 days ago

NASA is Building a Nuclear Reactor to Power Lunar and Martian Exploration!

NASA and the U.S. Dept. of Energy have come together to solicit design proposals for…

4 days ago