Alert Bruce Willis: Two Asteroids Pass Close to Earth

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NASA

Four computer generated views of Asteroid Toutatis based on Goldstone radar imagery. Via NASA

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s 2012 XE54 and 4179 Toutatis!

Two asteroids will be buzzing past our planet on Tuesday, giving astronomers something to talk about around the dinner table and end-of-the-world theorists something to fret over.

However, Astronomers say that there is no need to alert the Armageddon team, as there is no danger of either asteroid hitting Earth. According to Universe Today, asteroid 2012 XE54 will pass between the Earth and the Moon at a distance of about 141,000 miles, while 4179 Toutatis will give us an even wider berth — it shouldn’t come any closer than 4.3 million miles, more than 18 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon. (Although that assurance may be of little comfort to those who have seen Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia.)

(MORE: All Cracked Up: A Surprising Look Inside the Moon)

Asteroid 2012 XE54 was only discovered last weekend, but astronomers have had their telescopes trained on the “malformed potato”-shaped asteroid Toutatis for a while because of its curious habit of making repeated passes by the Earth, coming back to visit every four years or so. Toutatis is also a “biggie,” according to Universe Today. The space rock measures 2.7 miles long and 1.5 miles wide — big enough to cause cataclysmic damage to the Earth, and potentially wipe out life as we know it, although Universe Today helpfully assures us that it’s still significantly smaller than the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs, which was approximately 6 miles wide.

The identified flying objects will be monitored by the Slooh Space Camera on Dec. 11th, with several live shows on Slooh.com, free to the public.

MORE: A Closer Look at the Solar System’s Most Fascinating Asteroid

MORE: Forty Years Later: Apollo 17′s Final Footprints

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m_richert
m_richert

I liked the headline...;_-)