Big asteroid flying by, no threat to Earth

Thu Dec 13, 2012 4:50am IST

Related Topics

REUTERS - A large asteroid that flies in nearly the same orbit as Earth will make a close pass by the planet, but there's no chance of an impact - at least for hundreds of years, astronomers said on Wednesday.

The asteroid, named Toutatis, flies by Earth every four years. During its closest approach on Wednesday, the celestial rock will pass about 4.3 million miles (7 million km) from Earth, which is about 18 times farther away than the moon.

"There is no danger of a collision with Earth," NASA astronomer Lance Benner said in a statement.

The 0.6-mile (4.3-km) long asteroid circles the sun in an orbit that is very closely aligned with Earth's, making it a potentially hazardous object for the future.

The asteroid was first spotted in 1934 and its orbit was confirmed in 1989. In 2004, Toutatis passed by Earth just four times farther away than the moon, much closer than this week's encounter.

Astronomers are using radar and optical telescopes to get a better fix on the asteroid's location, its unusual spin and the flight path in hopes of refining estimates on where it will travel in the future.

"We already know that Toutatis will not hit Earth for hundreds of years," Benner said. "These new observations will allow us to predict the asteroid's trajectory even farther into the future."

(Reporting by Irene Klotz in Phoenix; Editing by Jane Sutton and Eric Beech)

FILED UNDER:

26/11 Attack

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Lakhvi's Bail

Lakhvi's Bail

Pakistan court bails man accused of masterminding Mumbai attack.  Full Article 

PM's Moves

PM's Moves

Modi moves in to speed up $300 billion stuck projects.  Full Article 

Coal Unions

Coal Unions

Coal India workers threaten five-day strike, stokes output worries.  Full Article 

Space Programme

Space Programme

ISRO tests its heaviest space launch vehicle, eyes global market.  Full Article 

Peshawar attack

Peshawar Attack

Some Pakistan militants denounce school attack, amid national outrage.  Full Article 

Uber Again

Uber Again

Uber driver in Boston charged with kidnapping and rape.  Full Article 

Discounts

Discounts

Dealers offer gold discount for first time in five months.  Full Article 

"PK" in Cinemas

"PK" in Cinemas

Secret of year's "biggest" Bollywood film is its plot.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device   Full Coverage