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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.

Send this picture as a postcard

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Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 352808 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 11:49 AM

i'm expecting close ups from the urban hikers...who no doubt happened to be in that asteroids neighbourhood.


 COMMENT 352809 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 11:51 AM

Cool stuff. Thanks!


 COMMENT 352815 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 12:06 PM

Dang, all these asteroids....12-21-2012! AAAACKCKKCKCK!!!


 COMMENT 352838 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 12:46 PM

@808 - LMAO


 COMMENT 352886 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 02:15 PM

Clearly your amatuer iPhone5 camera could do better than that? Looks like a bobcat to me.


 COMMENT 353050 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 07:16 PM

God is in control, some day we will get hit by the big one called Wormwood, read Revelation...! nothing we can do anyway, this is a mighty big Space out there!
Heavenly Father bless us all tonite!


 COMMENT 353073 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 07:59 PM

So that was that screaming I heard---thought it was the neighbors again......


 COMMENT 353126P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-11 11:30 PM

mountainfox, please realize your catastrophe will only affect those who ascribe to said scripture. i will be just fine :)


 COMMENT 353152 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-12 07:34 AM

good one 808 !


 COMMENT 353183P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-12 09:02 AM

Thank you so much for your educational contribution, so refreshing after slogging through some of the ignorant, brutish and low-brow comments that sadly seem to appear with greater frequency.


 MESAJIM agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-12 09:59 AM

Please remain vigilant: take care and be wary of the electromagnetic effects these asteroids have on smart meters. I have it on good authority that your SCE bill will skyrocket in conjunction with the passing of 4179 Toutatis.


 COMMENT 353255 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-12 10:40 AM

Is this a shooting star? How close does an asteroid have to come to Earth to burn up?


 MACPUZL agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-12 02:07 PM

JEDHAT - This wasn't a meteor. It was just reflecting sunlight, rather dimly. A meteor (shooting star) is when a piece of space junk hits our atmosphere and compresses it, causing the compressed air to heat up and fluoresce. That usually happens about 70 miles above the surface, and all but the biggest fireballs are usually caused by meteoroids about the size of a grain of sand or a pebble.


 COMMENT 353393 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-12 03:26 PM

808 for the win!!!!


 COMMENT 353535 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 06:28 AM

Weird how we can't see them until they are on us or past just us.


 COMMENT 353881 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-14 12:23 AM

Thanks Macpuzl. I just got back from picking my son up from his ride home from college. there are about 6 bog one per minute to the southwest tonight!!! Thursday night!!


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