In just a few hours, a 3 mile wide asteroid identified as Toutatis, will pass by Earth on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 1:40 a.m. EST. Though this stellar event is considered "potentially threatening" to Earth its distance of 4.3 million miles is expected to insulate everyone here from possible harm. Though the chances are great that those with a telescope will enjoy the show!
Astrophysicists predict the peanut or potato shaped asteroid is expected to fly within .0463 AU of Earth or the equivalent of 18 lunar distances in just hours from now. Though the asteroid will be close, it likely will not impact Earth for at least a minimum of another 5 centuries. NASA officials have carefully observed the asteroid closely through radar and telescope campaigns for years. Their most recent was launched December 4, 2012 and expected to end on December 22, 2012 in hopes to better understand the asteroid's rotation and make improvements to the space models in reference to its orbit, size, and structure. Toutatis' approach this year is nothing unlike what it has every four years since first observed during 1943 and first discovered during 1989.
For backyard skywatchers, chances are slim the asteroid can be viewed without a telescope. Fortunately, the event can be enjoyed via the online space camera and live streaming site Slooh. This high powered telescope will air footage from its location off of the west coast of Africa on the Canary Islands starting at 3:00 P.M. EST.
To watch the live stream and related footage of Toutatis, click here.