The Mayan calendar end of the world 2012 predictions does not mention asteroid Toutatis, but it is going to buzz Earth in two days. Does it pose any threat to the planet?
The orbit of Asteroid 4179 Toutatis (Space.com)
Here are 8 Things to Know about Asteroid 4179 Toutatis
1. Asteroid Toutatis was discovered in 1989, and it approaches Earth every four years. It is visible to telescope-aided eyes.
2. Peanut-shaped Toutatis measures 2.7 miles long and 1.5 miles wide.
3. The potentially dangerous asteroid will be closest to Earth on December 12 at 0740 (UTC). There is no reason to be alarmed: Toutatis will pass from a safe distance. Its closest approach will be 4.4 million miles away, or 18 times the distance of the Earth from the moon.
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4. "There is no threat of impact with our planet," said astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, curator of the Planetarium of Rome and head of the Virtual Telescope Project. In its report, Examiner.com called Toutatis a "potentially killer asteroid" but also noted it "poses no impact hazard for hundreds of years."
5. Il Messagero reported that Toutatis is being "driven by the gravitational force of the Earth and Jupiter." As such, "the object is expanding its orbit," meaning it will be farther from Earth each time it approaches.
6. Those who would like to see Toutatis should point their telescope between the constellations of Pisces and the Whale. (See this Space.com video of Toutatis courtesy of the Virtual Telescope Project.)
7. Scientists are closely observing Toutatis but not for reasons involving threats. They will merely analyze and compare data from 2008 and 2004, up to the first records.
8. Toutatis was a Celtic god known to protect tribes and worshipped in ancient Gaul and Britain.
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It helps to be informed. You are likely to see in social media feeds that an asteroid is approaching Earth, but relax. This same asteroid has been buzzing Earth for a long time now.
The scientists couldn't be clearer that Toutatis is too far to impact Earth when it makes its nearest approach on December 12.
"Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012," NASA has earlier clarified.
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