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10 December 2012

On the search for asteroid Toutatis and the origin of our astronomy club's name


Asteroid 1749 Toutaits AC
Credit: Goldstone radar image 1996
4179 Toutatis was first sighted on February 10, 1934, as object 1934 CT, and then promptly lost. It remained a lost asteroid for several decades until it was recovered on January 4, 1989, by Christian Pollas, and was named after the Celtic god Toutatis/Teutates.

The next close approach will be December 12, 2012, at a distance of 0.046 AU (6,900,000 km) and at magnitude 10.7. At magnitude 10.7, the asteroid will not be visible to the naked eye, but may be visible to experienced observers using high-end binoculars and telescope.

As you may have noticed by now (referring to our blog header) our Astronomy Club here in Finland is name after Asteroid 1749 Toutatis/1989AC. As a kid the news of a new found asteroid harbinger of death and destroyer of the world a.k.a Asteroid Toutatis was a kick start for me in Astronomy.

In 2010, we formed our astronomy club and had 2 names proposed for it . The first one was "Event horizon" which is in Finnish "Tapahtumahorisontti". It was a nice though but hard to pronounce. The second was Kustar for the location of the club in Kustavi, Finland, but as we slept on it for a couple of nights, one morning i woke up screaming "By Toutatis!" i got it!
All the memories of the old newspaper space-articles I collected on my wall (incluing the one with asteroid Toutatis) came back to me. I just knew it was right. Felt appropriate and it reflected well my relation with Astronomy. The vote passed in favor of my enthusiasm and the name stuck.
Now for the second anniversary of the club, we are travelling to Morocco to look for asteroid Toutatis in the Sahara desert. See you all when we come back!