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 Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State

nachricht What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?
02.12.2016 | University of Toronto

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: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>