NASA got lucky. The rock passing by Earth on Halloween looks like a giant skull. Boo-hoo!
It is Halloween and NASA has the perfect space story for the scariest day of the year. Today an asteroid will flyby earth in close distance. The images of the dead comet NASA released show a giant skull floating in space. What could be scarier than a giant skull hurdling towards earth on Halloween? It sounds like the story line of a Halloween themed sci-fi movie.
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There is no danger coming from steroid 2015 TB145. It looks scary, but it will pass by earth in save distance. The dead comet flies by in a distance of about 1.3 lunar distance. This is approximately 302,000 miles.
The exact time of the flyby is at 1 p.m. EDT (10 a.m. PDT, 17:00 UTC) today, on Halloween 2015.
The image above of asteroid 2015 TB145, was generated using radar data collected by the National Science Foundation's 1,000-foot (305-meter) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The radar image was taken on Oct. 30, 2015, and the image resolution is 25 feet (7.5 meters) per pixel.
"The IRTF data may indicate that the object might be a dead comet, but in the Arecibo images it appears to have donned a skull costume for its Halloween flyby," said Kelly Fast, IRTF program scientist at NASA Headquarters and acting program manager for NASA's NEO Observations Program.
Managed by the University of Hawaii for NASA, the IRTF's 3-meter (10 foot) telescope collected infrared data on the object. The data may finally put to rest the debate over whether 2015 TB145, with its unusual orbit, is an asteroid or is of cometary origin.
"We found that the object reflects about six percent of the light it receives from the sun," said Vishnu Reddy, a research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona. "That is similar to fresh asphalt, and while here on Earth we think that is pretty dark, it is brighter than a typical comet which reflects only 3 to 5 percent of the light. That suggests it could be cometary in origin –- but as there is no coma evident, the conclusion is it is a dead comet.”
The asteroid 2015 TB145 was only discovered on October 10 by the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS-1 (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) on Haleakala, Maui. This is a surprising short notice. Just imagine an astroid is coming directly towards earth. In the case of asteroid 2015 TB145, there would have only been 21 days to have Bruce Willis gather a team of astronauts to fly to the astroid and blow it up (Armageddon).
The next time the asteroid will be in Earth's neighborhood will be in September 2018, when it will make a distant pass at about 24 million miles (38 million kilometers), or about a quarter the distance between Earth and the sun.
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Via the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Asteroid Watch page.