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Rocks from Space
updated: Dec 11, 2012, 11:30 AM

By Chuck McPartlin

Last night at 10 PM, a small asteroid designated 2012 XE54 screamed by us, at a distance of about 141 thousand miles, only 60% of the distance to the Moon. It's about 118 feet in diameter, and near closest approach became visible in amateur telescopes. The asteroid was discovered on December 9.

Here's an image from a video of the event taken from my front yard. The asteroid looks like a short streak because the camera was integrating for a bit over 8 seconds before displaying a frame.

Over the next few days a much larger asteroid, 4179 Toutatis, will be cruising past at a distance of about 4.3 million miles. Toutatis is peanut-shaped, and just under 3 miles across. It will also get bright enough to watch in backyard telescopes. Details and finder charts are on the Sky & Telescope website.

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