Asteroid Toutatis video shows the details of a potentially apocalyptic space rock
Take a good look at this video. If the world doesn't actually end with the Mayan apocalypse on Friday, you may be looking at the real end of human civilization.
NASA has released an asteroid Toutatis video, giving us an up-close view of the asteroid that passed by Earth on Wednesday and Thursday (Dec. 12 and 13). The 40-second video is made up of 64 radar images taken by NASA's Deep Space Network, located in Goldstone, California.
The detail is stunning in this look at a rock that may one day wipe out all of human civilization. Each pixel in the image represents only 12 feet on the asteroid. Since the entire space rock is about 3 miles wide, this gives us a lot to look at. Ridges, overall shape and possible surface features are all visible in the footage.
Asteroid Toutatis passed by the Earth at a distance of 4.3 million miles this time. That's 18 times further away than the Moon and therefore totally safe -- this time. The asteroid returns to cross our planet's orbit every 57 years, and each pass is at a different location. The next near-encounter with Toutatis will be in November of 2069, when the asteroid will be only 1.8 million miles from the Earth at its closest point.
You don't need to start worrying about your grandkids yet. Astronomers have shown that the asteroid poses no threat to the Earth at any point in the next four centuries. After that, however, there is not enough data to predict the orbit with certainty.
If an asteroid the size of Toutatis did hit the Earth, the effects would be devastating. Scientists estimate that the impact anything larger than about 0.6 miles in diameter could alter the global climate and cause massive extinctions like that of the dinosaurs.
So it is indeed possible that this video of asteroid Toutatis is a glimpse at the end of humanity. Just not yet.
Photo/Video credit: NASA
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