December 18, 2012
Surface Features of Asteroid Toutatis Revealed by Radar
With optical telescopes, it’s difficult to make out the surface features of asteroid Toutatis. Radar gives us a different picture. On Dec. 12 and 13, 2012, scientists pointed NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar precisely on the asteroid while it was over four million miles/6.9 million kilometers away. Using the bounced radar signals scientists assembled these “images” showing the surface features of Toutatis, an asteroid measuring about 3 miles long (4.8 km). The orbit of Toutatis is well understood. An analysis indicates there is zero possibility of an Earth impact over the entire interval over which its motion can be accurately computed, which is about the next four centuries.