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 The moon is front and center during a total solar eclipse
24.07.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Superluminous supernova marks the death of a star at cosmic high noon
24.07.2017 | Royal Astronomical Society

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: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ultrathin device harvests electricity from human motion

24.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists announce the quest for high-index materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

ADIR Project: Lasers Recover Valuable Materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>