Toutatis: 3-Mile-Wide Asteroid Comes Stunningly Close to Earth

Toutatis is travelling at about 39,600 km/h (24,550 miles/h)

Early Wednesday, a massive 3-mile-wide asteroid named Toutatis came within 4.3 million miles of our planet (or 18 lunar distances, if one prefers).

Information released by NASA says that, when passing by Earth, the asteroid was traveling at a speed of 39,000 kilometers per hour (24,550 miles per hour).

What makes Toutatis (or Asteroid 4179, as its scientific name is) so very special is the fact that, unlike planets and most other asteroids, it has two spinning axes, Space Reporter explains.

Thus, its movements follow one of these spinning axes for a period of 5.4 Earth-days, and once every 7.3 days, Toutatis follows its other spinning axis.

Given the size of the asteroid and its coming this close to Earth, it need not come as such a big surprise that there are many who fear it might at one point return and hit our planet.

However, NASA researchers wish to reassure the public that, according to their calculations concerning the trajectory of this asteroid, it is highly unlikely that a collision will occur anytime in the following 600 years.

Toutatis was first spotted back in 1934, yet its official discovery came later, in 1989.

Studies have shown that this particular asteroid is in the habit of going around the sun every four years. Thus, it is expected that it will return for another visit in 2016.

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