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This picture shows the orbit of Toutatis. It flew close to Earth in September 2004.
Click on image for full size
Windows to the Universe original artwork by Randy Russell, based on orbital information from NASA's Near Earth Object Program.

Asteroid Toutatis Passes Near Earth
News story originally written on October 1, 2004

A large asteroid passed near Earth on September 29, 2004. How close was it? Not close enough to worry about! Asteroid Toutatis passed within about 1.5 million kilometers (961 thousand miles) of Earth, about four times the distance to the Moon.

Toutatis is an odd asteroid. It is shaped sort of like a potato. It is about 4.6 km (2.9 miles) long. An asteroid that big would make a big mess if it actually hit Earth. Astronomers don't think any asteroids that big will pass as close to Earth this century.

Toutatis was discovered in 1989. It is named after a god of the Celts and Gauls. Toutatis was a god of war and growth. His name means 'king of the world', 'king of battle' or 'father of the tribe'.

Last modified October 11, 2004 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF