Massive space rock to fly by earth again this fall after its ‘close’ Halloween flyby of 2015


Remember that skull-shaped space rock that tormented us during Halloween in 2015? It’s back and creepier than ever. The 700 metre asteroid that looks uncannily like a skull first passed our planet on October 31, 2015, in time for Halloween. Now, it’s set to make a return in November 2018, giving scientists another opportunity to study the strange phenomenon.

Earth is set for another spooky encounter with a dead comet that looks uncannily like a skull that first passed our planet at 78,000mph (125,500km/h) at a distance of 310,000 miles (499,000km) on October 31, 2015, just in time for Halloween. By Jose Antonia Penas via SINC

Earth is set for another spooky encounter with a 700 metre asteroid that looks uncannily like a skull. The space rock first passed ‘close’ to our planet at 78,000mph (125,500km/h) at a distance of 310,000 miles (499,000km) on October 31, 2015, just in time for Halloween. Now, it’s set to make a return in November 2018.

This fall, the space rock, known as 2015 TB145, will flyby at a less dramatic distance than the last one. The asteroid will zoom past the planet at about 105 Earth-moon distances, compared to just under 1.3 lunar distances last time around. Astronomers analysing the 2015 readings found that the asteroid likely completes one rotation every 2.94 hours. The object measures between 625 and 700 metres (2,000 to 2,300 feet), its shape is a slightly flattened ellipsoid, and its rotation axis was roughly perpendicular to the Earth at the time of its closest proximity.

Return of skull-shaped asteroid, skull-shaped asteroid, skull-shaped asteroid november 2018
The return of skull-shaped asteroid in November 2018. By NASA

The amount of heat which it retains and the speed at which it absorbs or transfers heat is consistent with that of similar sized asteroids. The reflectivity or albedo of the surface of this asteroid is around five or six per cent.

In a written statement, researcher Pablo Santos-Sanz, from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, said: ‘This means that it is very dark, only slightly more reflective than charcoal. It has a magnitude of 26.5, which means it is only visible from Earth using very large telescopes or space telescopes.

Return of skull-shaped asteroid, skull-shaped asteroid, skull-shaped asteroid november 2018
The skull-shaped asteroid. By National Science Foundation (NSF)

Back in 2015, the comet’s approach led to claims from conspiracy theorists that it could cause earthquakes and tsunamis. And I assume it would wipe out any city it happened to hit. But if it were to hit, there is a 71 per cent chance it will hit water. Maybe a tsunami would be the biggest concern.

Scientists think that the asteroid could in fact be an extinct comet which lost its volatile compounds after orbiting the Sun numerous times. Asteroid 2015 TB145 was discovered on October 10, 2015, by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS-1 (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) on Haleakala, Maui, part of the NASA-funded Near-Earth Object Observations (NEOO) Program. Asteroid 2015 TB145 safely flew by our planet at just under 1.3 lunar distances, or about 302,000 miles (486,000 kilometers), on Halloween, October 31, 2015, at 1 pm ET (10 am PT, 5pm GMT).

Because of its erratic orbit, Nasa isn’t sure where it will go, but the space agency says it’s confident it will not hit Earth.

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ARXIV – Large Halloween Asteroid at Lunar Distance
MSN – Dead comet that looks like a skull to fly by earth again this fall





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