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Monday, 10 December 2012

By Toutatis!

"Near-Earth asteroid 4179 Toutatis will be passing within 7 million kilometers of Earth on December 12. It's visited us several times before, with a close pass every four years in December. As near-Earth asteroids go, it's a good-sized one, an elongated and lumpy object about 2 by 2 by 4 kilometers in extent."

"Toutatis makes frequent close approaches to Earth, with a currently minimum possible distance (Earth MOID) of just 0.006 AU (2.3 times as far as the Moon). The approach on September 29, 2004, was particularly close, at 0.0104 AU[13] (within 4 lunar distances) from Earth, presenting a good opportunity for observation, with Toutatis shining at magnitude 8.8 when brightest. A more recent close approach of 0.0502 AU (7,510,000 km; 4,670,000 mi) happened on November 9, 2008. The next close approach will be December 12, 2012, at a distance of 0.046 AU (6,900,000 km; 4,300,000 mi), and at magnitude 10.7. ...
Given that Toutatis makes many close approaches the Earth, such as in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012, it is listed as a potentially hazardous object. ..."

Toutatis  was a Celtic god worshipped in ancient Gaul and Britain.  Today, he is best known through the Gaulish oath/catchphrase "By Toutatis!", invented for the Asterix comics by Goscinny and Uderzo. The spelling Toutatis, however, is authentic and attested by about ten ancient inscriptions.