Thank you to Raven Lunatick for bringing this to my attention! It seems that while everyone was watching Toutatis the other day, another asteroid slipped past Earth with few noticing. Luckily, researchers had been observing this newly-discovered asteroid, named 2012 XE54, since Dec. 9th and knew that like the much larger Toutatis, this one would pass Earth by without incident.
But whereas Toutatis avoided Earth by a whopping 7 million kilometers, roughly 18 times the orbit of the Moon, XD54 passed within 230,000 km of Earth. That’s within the Moon’s orbit in case you don’t know, which is a far closer shave for those keeping track!
Granted, this asteroid was substantially smaller than Toutatis, measuring in at 36 meters at its widest point compared to Toutatis’ hefty 4.5 km length. However, that does not mean that such a small object does not have considerable destructive power. For the sake of perspective, consider the case of the asteroid that landed in Siberia in 1908. Here, the stellar object in question was similar size to XD54, and flattened some 2000 square km of forest when it exploded above Siberia’s Podkamennaya Tunguska River.
In addition, XD54 shares another characteristic to the much larger Toutatis, in that its orbit is similar to our own. Scientists now predict that it takes the stellar object 2.72 years to complete a single lap of around the sun. This means that, like Toutatis, we can expect to see it again in the not-too-distant future. However, that’s not likely to be for many years and there’s no indication of if and when it will collide with our planet. So as far as the Doomsayers are concerned, humanity just might make it out of 2012 alive!