On Sept 29.57 2004, the Near-Earth Asteroid (4179) Toutatis approached our planet, reaching a minimum distance of about 1.5 millions of km. Few hours before, it was observed by Gianluca Masi, Franco Mallia and Roger Wilcox, as part of an educational project. Several sets of images were grabbed, to make a movie showing its fast motion against the stars. It is worth to note as at the time of the observations, Toutatis was a southern object (declination < -60 deg).
Gianluca and Franco were in Italy, Roger in California and together we managed to get the images remotely using the SoTIE telescope in Las Campanas (14" @ f/7 telescope + AP7 + Paramount GT-1100 S); we are very grateful to the NASA/TIE team, as well as to Software Bisque, for their support and disposability. We also thank Carnegie Observatories and Las Campanas Observatory for hosting the SoTIE telescope in Chile.
Those wishing to use these images, are kindly asked to contact us.
Plot made with TheSky
Animations and Images.
Below we post several images and animations, showing the motion of the asteroids against the starry background. Looking at the time span covered by each animation, it is easy to realize how fast the asteroid was moving. All the images have N on the top and are 15' large.
Click on the image to see the animation (>1700kb)
The still image shows the sum of all the frames used in the movie above, so (4179) Toutatis appears like a dotted trail. Imaging was started at 01:41:12, ending at 01:52:38, Sept 29, 2004. N is up.
Click on the image to see the animation (>800kb)
This image comes from the same set of frames used for the animation above, but this time the images have been summed, showing a dotted trail: (4179) Toutatis.
Below is a list of people/magazines/websites/TV which used this material; we thank them for their consideration.
Discovery Channel, Canada
Near Earth Objects Program
UAI Minor Planet Section
Sky and Telescope
The Planetary Society