Watch Asteroid Toutatis as It Flies by Mother Earth
Asteroid 4179 Toutatis tumbled past Mother Earth last week, far from the naked eye but visible by telescope. NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar caught images of the three-mile-wide space rock's end-over-end flyby, enabling the space agency to compile the video below as the asteroid cruised by.
It is but one of several that have catapulted past our fair planet over the past couple of years. Most recently was asteroid 2012TC4, which zoomed by on October 11 and 12, within the moon's orbit—the moon averages 238,000 miles from Earth, and this one came within 59,000 miles of Earth—much closer than Toutatis, which was about 4.3 million miles away, Space.com said. Toutatis takes four Earth years to orbit the sun, and it won’t come anywhere near us again until 2069, Space.com reported.
Such brushes do not pose danger to Earth, astronomers say, but the last-minute discovery of their presence could feed apocalypse fears leading into Friday's winter solstice. One of the many doomsday scenarios flying around out there is that of a rogue planet that will slam into our own, but experts say that such a planet, if it existed and were about to hit us, would already be as bright as, or brighter than, the moon.