NASA's Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, California captured this striking footage of Toutatis, an asteroid that flew by on December 12 and 13, about 4.3 million miles from Earth. Meanwhile, the Chinese National Space Agency also took interest in the three-mile-long rock by coordinating its Chang'e 2 space probe to fly by and take pictures at a close proximity of 3.2 km (2 miles) and relative velocity of 10.73 km per second, according to an official statement. Toutatis is known to make a trip around the sun every four years and the next close encounter will arrive in November 2069.
The earth's sky is open for a double feature this week, first with the rare sighting of a total solar eclipse in Australia on Wednesday, and now one of the most spectacular meteor showers returns for its annual November show. Commonly known as Leonids, reports of the celestial storm have been recorded as early as the 10th century and its most prolific shower in 1833 saw as many as 100,000 meteors per hour. The photograph (shown left) was taken by Fred Aspenak in November 2001.
For a better view, check out the telescopic recording of the shower provided by NASA's Marshall Center.
Space Shot of the Day is a feature series following the latest developments in planetary science, astrophotography, space exploration, future plans for colonization and all things related to outer space.
One evening when cloudy weather put a halt to his astronomy research, Harvard Ph.D. student Alex Parker was inspired to get creative -- so he uploaded the top 100 images from the Hubble telescope into a mosaic-making program and recreated Van Gogh's iconic 1889 painting.
No big deal.
In 1996, just months before he died, astronomer/astrophysicist/author Carl Sagan recorded this message to future colonists living on Mars.
Very interesting to hear 16 years later, in the light of Curiosity's landing, and cuts jeopardizing our national space programs.
Hopefully a few politicians are listening to his words of wisdom.