Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

ESO Views of Earth-Approaching Asteroid Toutatis

29.09.2004



Today, September 29, 2004, is undisputedly the Day of Toutatis, the famous "doomsday" asteroid.

Not since the year 1353 did this impressive "space rock" pass so close by the Earth as it does today. Visible as a fast-moving faint point of light in the southern skies, it approaches the Earth to within 1,550,000 km, or just four times the distance of the Moon. Closely watched by astronomers since its discovery in January 1989, this asteroid has been found to move in an orbit that brings it close to the Earth at regular intervals, about once every four years. This happened in 1992, 1996, 2000 and now again in 2004.

Radar observations during these passages have shown that Toutatis has an elongated shape, measuring about 4.6 x 2.4 x 1.9 km. It tumbles slowly through space, with a rotation period of 5.4 days. The above images of Toutatis were taken with the ESO Very Large Telescope (during a technical test) in the evening of September 28. They were obtained just over 12 hours before the closest approach that happens today at about 15:40 hrs Central European Summer Time (CEST), or 13:40 hrs Universal Time (UT). At the time of these observations, Toutatis was about 1,640,000 km from the Earth, moving with a speed of about 11 km/sec relative to our planet.



They show the asteroid as a fast-moving object of magnitude 10, about 40 times fainter than what can be perceived with the unaided, dark-adapted eye. They also prove that Toutatis is right on track, following exactly the predicted trajectory in space and passing the Earth at a safe distance, as foreseen. Detailed calculations, taking into account all available observations of this celestial body, have shown that although Toutatis passes regularly near the Earth, today’s passage is the closest one for quite some time, at least until the year 2562. The ESO observations, obtained at a moment when Toutatis was very close to the Earth, will help to further refine the orbital calculations.

The "parallax effect" demonstrated!

Simultaneous images obtained with telescopes at ESO’s two observatories at La Silla and Paranal demonstrate the closeness of Toutatis to the Earth. As can be seen on the unique ESO PR Photo 28e/04 that combines two of the exposures from the two observatories, the sighting angle to Toutatis from the two observatories, 513 km km apart, is quite different. Astronomers refer to this effect as the "parallax". The closer the object is, the larger is the effect, i.e., the larger will be the shift of the line-of-sight.

Interestingly, the measured angular distance in the sky of the beginning and end of the two trails (about 40 arcsec), together with the known distance between the two observatories and the position of Toutatis in the sky at the moment of the exposures fully define the triangle "Paranal-Toutatis-La Silla" and thus allow to calculate the exact distance to the asteroid.

It is found to be very close to that predicted from the asteroid’s position in its orbit and that of the Earth at the moment of this unique observation, 1,607,900 km. This exceptional, simultaneous set of observations thus provides an independent measurement of Toutatis’ distance in space and, like the measured positions, a confirmation of its computed orbit. More information about Toutatis is available at the dedicated webpage by the French discoverers and also at the specialised Near-Earth Objects - Dynamic Site.

The full text of this ESO PR Photo release, with five photos and all weblinks, is available at the above adress:

Richard West | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2004/phot-28-04.html
http://www.eso.org

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'
26.05.2017 | University of Leicester

nachricht Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect
24.05.2017 | Vienna University of Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>