Human Skull-Shaped Asteroid Zipped Past Earth On Halloween

Posted: Nov 3 2015, 7:24am CST | by , in Latest Science News


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Human Skull-Shaped Asteroid Zipped Past Earth on Halloween
This image of asteroid 2015 TB145, a dead comet, 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. Credits: NAIC-Arecibo/NSF
  • Halloween Asteroid Looks Like a Human Skull-Shaped Dead Comet

A human skull-like asteroid was detected which flitted past the earth on Halloween.

On the eerie and bewitching night of Halloween a strange incident occurred which had the superstitious amongst us running for cover. Instead of just the usual trick or treat tradition, an asteroid which showed no signs of life flew past the earth.

But the strangest thing was that closeup images of it revealed that it bore a resemblance to a human skull. Termed the 2015 TB145 it passed by the planet earth at a distance of 300,000 miles. While it was close to the orbital axis of the moon, it didn’t pose the least amount of threat to our planet.

"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.

University of Hawaii managed the IRTF's 3-meter (10 foot) telescope for NASA. That telescope collected infrared data on the object.

These first radar images from the National Science Foundation's 1,000-foot (305-meter) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, indicate the near-Earth object is spherical in shape and approximately 2,000 feet (600 meters) in diameter. The radar images were taken on Oct. 30, 2015, and the image resolution is 25 feet (7.5 meters) per pixel. Credits: NAIC-Arecibo/NSF

"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 haunting image of the asteroid has earned it the moniker of Spooky or Great Pumpkin which are appropriate names. However, the asteroid is so far away that it cannot be seen with the naked eye.

This is indeed a tragedy. Had its image of a spooky skull been visible on earth, the excitement of the Halloween participators may have gone sky high. Their enthusiasm would have known no bounds whatsoever.

The online Slooh Community of sky gazers posted images of the dead comet and it was quite a sight to see. Updates on its path trajectory and the various facts associated with it were available in the folds of cyberspace.

NASA was in on the game too. The asteroid was observed via special telescopes. The strange coincidence of a skull-like shape on the surface of the asteroid is just pure luck. But for those who find such things patterns a source of conspiracy theories and wild goose chases, well, there is no harm in a little speculation now and then.

The comet is like a luminescent object in the night sky. An observatory in the Canary Islands was used to record every move of the comet in the starry heavens. Yet say what you will, the object was indeed fascinating in itself.

Rather like finding images in coffee stains on napkins or beer foam patterns, this skull shape was something which piqued the interest of nearly everyone. The asteroid is on a relentless journey in space at a speed of 78,293 mph. Just to get an idea of what the worst case scenario would look like, were the comet to hit the earth, a crater measuring 6 miles in diameter would be formed.

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