Click on image for a 96 kilobyte animation of the flyby.

Courtesy Gianluca Masi, Franco Mallia, and Roger Wilcox.

Moving at more than 11 kilometers per second (25,000 miles per hour), the irregular, bowling-pin-shaped near-Earth asteroid 4179 Toutatis passed within 1.5 million kilometers of Earth (about 4 times the distance from Earth to the Moon) at 13:40 Universal Time on September 29th. Twelve hours prior to this close encounter, Gianluca Masi (Bellatrix Observatory, Ceccano, Italy), Franco Mallia, and Roger Wilcox used the 14-inch SoTIE telescope at Las Campanas, Chile, to capture 32 images of Toutatis during an 11-minute period. They assembled the images into a time-lapse sequence that shows Toutatis moving rapidly across a 15-arcminute-wide field of view. The asteroid is not expected to pass this close to Earth again until 2562.


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