An asteroid barreling towards Earth with incredible speed could prove to be very interesting for Halloween trick or treat. Although scientists say the asteroid, which has been dubbed “Spooky,” will miss Earth, it will be a relatively close call.
CNN reports that the asteroid, named 2015 TB145, will miss the Earth by about 300,000 miles, which is slightly farther away than the moon. It will be visible to those with good telescopes.
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) October 22, 2015
Calling it “one of the best radar targets of the year,” a Jet Propulsion Laboratory report on the asteroid said that this is a wonderful opportunity for scientists.
“The flyby presents a truly outstanding scientific opportunity to study the physical properties of this object.”
NASA announced that the asteroid will be traveling through Orion on October 30-31.
Estimated to be 300 to 600 meters wide and traveling at 78,000 mph, the asteroid’s proximity to Earth is described as very close. To put this in perspective, a meteorite that exploded in the sky over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 was about 20 meters wide, and asteroid 2000 FL 10, which had some people crying doom, missed Earth by 15 million miles.
For aficionados of heavenly bodies, asteroid 2015 TB145 will be the biggest known object to pass so close to the Earth until 2027 and is about the size of a football stadium. Others describe the asteroid as the size of Chicago’s Sears Tower.
— Discovery Channel UK (@DiscoveryUK) October 22, 2015
This will not be the only asteroid passing Earth in the coming days. Asteroid 2009 FD will pass within about four million miles of Earth on October 29.
JPL runs NASA’s Near Earth Object Office to keep track of such celestial visitors. You can follow its news on Twitter at @asteroidwatch.
October seems to be particularly conducive to asteroid appearances. On October 30, 1937, the binary asteroid Hermes, which was made a regular appearance to these parts of the heavens, came within 500,000 miles of Earth. Hermes’ two parts are each about 600 to 900 meters wide.
But not to worry. Hermes’ orbits have been well-plotted in recent years, and according to a JPL engineer quoted in a 2003 Cornell article, “there is no cause for worry in our lifetimes.”
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) October 20, 2015
The public will be able to track 2015 TB145 as well, thanks to the online Slooh Community Observatory and Virtual Telescope Project.
At 1 p.m. EDT on October 31, Slooh will air a live webcast of the asteroid featuring time-lapse views of “Spooky,” which completes one lap around the sun every three years, captured by powerful telescopes. The Virtual Telescope Project, meanwhile, will broadcast its own free show at 8 p.m. EDT on Oct. 30.
Slooh host Paul Cox said in a statement that this really is a spooky occasion for Earthlings.
“It’s frightening to think an asteroid this size, approaching so close to Earth, was discovered only 21 days before its closest approach, which just happens to be on Halloween. If that doesn’t give you the chills, nothing will.”
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) October 20, 2015
Cox went on to reassure us that they are keeping a close eye on “Spooky.”
“Slooh members are tracking the asteroid every night in order to reduce the great uncertainty of its position, size and highly unusual orbit. We can’t afford to lose sight of an object this big, which has happened repeatedly in the past.”
Keep an eye on the sky trick or treaters. The asteroid just might prove to be more trick than treat.
[Photo by Alexander Gerst / ESA via Getty Images]