Asteroid 4179 Toutatis Near-Earth Approach: How to View Online

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By Jenalyn Villamarin | December 12, 2012 12:02 PM EST

Massive asteroid 4179 Toutatis, which is approximately 3 miles wide, will appear the closest within 4.3 million miles to planet Earth on early Wednesday morning. Spectators can view the extraordinary phenomenon on their computers.

Slooh Space Camera and Virtual Telescope Project will stream online both the live and free footage of the asteroid's passage from the professional-quality observatories. Slooh will webcast today the asteroid Toutatis views from a telescope at the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa starting at 3 p.m. EST.

Another viewing will be available tonight at 10 p.m. EST with the provided footage from a device in Arizona. Both online webcasts will feature remarks from Patrick Paolucci, Slooh President and Bob Berman, a columnist for Astronomy Magazine.

Though it is a near-Earth flyby, asteroid Toutatis cannot be seen with the naked eye. In order to view the asteroid, very huge technology equipment should be used such as the Goldstone Radar which looks like a satellite dish at 230 feet across. A small telescope can be used but the asteroid will still appear like a small dot of light moving across the sky.

Scientists at the Goldstone facility near Barstow have been monitoring the asteroid Toutatis since December 4. The have also posted online unclear images of the asteroid but it can still show the oblong shape of the asteroid as well as its lumpy topography.

Lance Benner, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory research scientist, stated the asteroid is rotating very slowly. At 3 miles long, it is one of the larger objects that have approached within 18 lunar distances of the planet Earth.

When asked the most important question of whether asteroid Toutatis will collide with Earth, Benner declared it is unlikely to happen. "There is no risk of it colliding with Earth for hundreds of years. Almost 9,400 asteroids have been found so far and none of them have a significant chance of hitting us. It's the ones we haven't found yet that are of greater concern," Benner said.

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