Remember a couple years ago when drivers in Russia filmed a meteorite exploding in the Earth’s atmosphere? That puppy was 55 feet wide. Keep that in mind when you read about asteroid 2015 TB145. It’s 1,542 feet in diameter, or about 28 times bigger than the famous Chelyabinsk meteor.
And this asteroid is hurtling toward Earth right now, scheduled to just barely whizz past us at 78,000 miles per hour — on Halloween, no less, Science Alert reported.
Don’t head to your apocalypse bunkers yet. Although the Halloween asteroid has been described as so “eccentric” that NASA only just found it three weeks ago, the agency is quite confident it will not slam into us. That would certainly ruin everyone’s trick-or-treat plans.
The Halloween asteroid is notable because it’s the closest anything like it has come to the planet since 2006, and nothing will get as close until 2027. Thankfully, that one will also miss us.
Rest assured, warning that an asteroid will just barely miss our delicate blue planet in a couple weeks’ time sounds worse than it actually is, since a “near miss” in space is a heck of a long way — about 310,000 miles from Earth — that’s about 1.3 lunar distances. The one that nearly missed us in 2006 was about 1.1 lunar distances, and the doozy scheduled for 2027 will be about one lunar distance away.
According to the Telegraph, another asteroid passed close by on October 10 and was considered pretty close at 15 million miles away. Once a space rock gets within 4.6 million miles from us, NASA considers it hazardous.
It’s a little unnerving that NASA only just found this colossal Halloween scare ominously flying through space only 10 days ago. The Halloween asteroid was spotted in Hawaii by the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System, which uses astronomical cameras and telescopes from all over the world with the main goal of finding flying objects threatening to smash into Earth.
That sudden discovery is a bit more spine-tingling when you consider the words of NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in 2013, a month after the Chelyabinsk meteor hit Russia.
“From the information we have, we don’t know of an asteroid that will threaten the population of the United States. But if it’s coming in three weeks… pray.”
NASA said this new asteroid is on an “extremely eccentric and high inclination” orbit, which means it was fairly difficult to track down. That orbit also means NASA can’t predict where it will head next, but the agency can say a collision course with Earth on Halloween isn’t on the calendar.
And earthlings with a decent amateur telescope may be able to see it as it safely flies past. The asteroid’s closest approach will happen around 11 a.m. on Halloween, but stargazers will have to look skyward the night before and just before dawn on October 31 to catch it moving “slowly” across the stars, EarthSky added. It will pass through the constellation Orion around dinner time on the east coast.
The asteroid will be too faint to see with the naked eye, however.
This close encounter should remind everyone that detecting and possibly diverting an asteroid should be a priority for the planet. As of this month, 13,251 near-Earth objects have been spotted, 877 of them asteroids with a diameter of nearly a mile. Of these objects, 1,635 are considered Potentially Hazardous Asteroids.
Still, when Bolden warned about space rocks like Chelyabinsk two years ago, he was also trying to stress that NASA needs funding to track these threats. Space agencies are working on improving detection, but money is always an issue. And if we do see one heading toward Earth, and it’s not a near miss, we’re going to have to figure out what we can do to push it out of the way.
Thankfully for now, this coming asteroid will be a near miss, although come Halloween, earthlings may hold their breath together as it whizzes past.
[Photo Courtesy Mopic / Shutterstock]