One of the largest asteroids ever known to pass near Earth will make its closest pass this Wednesday, Sept. 29. At about 3 miles long and a half-mile wide, the giant space rock, named 4179 Toutatis, would cause global devastation should it strike the planet – which fortunately, it won’t. Instead, Toutatis will pass within a million miles of Earth, at roughly four times the distance to the Moon. Its passage will be visible only to the trained eye, and only from the earth’s southern hemisphere. Discovered in 1989, the asteroid is distinguished by its dumbbell shape and wild rotation. Most asteroids rotate somewhat like a football thrown in a perfect spiral, but “Toutatis tumbles like a flubbed pass,” says Scott Hudson, a professor with the WSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a visiting scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. Hudson, who is involved in the study and computer modeling of earth-crossing asteroids, can be reached at 509.372.7254 or by e-mail at For more on Hudson’s asteroid-related research see