The skull-shaped “Halloween asteroid” created quite the buzz in 2015, when it made a timely, and as many said, “creepy” appearance in the skies on October 31 of that year. While astronomers have confirmed that it will be returning next year, the asteroid won’t be making it back in time for Halloween.
In a press release from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC) in Spain, researchers behind a new study on the asteroid announced that the object officially known as 2015 TB145 will be visible once again in mid-November 2018. That’s just a few weeks after Halloween, but well within the timeline in which 2015 TB2015 makes laps around the sun and flies by Earth. According to a separate report from Space.com, the asteroid takes about 3.04 years to make those laps.
According to Time, the “Halloween asteroid” wasn’t just notable for its skull-shaped appearance spooking out skygazers at just the right time of the year. When it flew by Earth over two years ago, it came within a shade over 300,000 miles away from Earth, or slightly more than the 239,000 miles that separate our planet from the moon. That might not be the case next year, as the asteroid will likely be much more distant, at the equivalent of 105 Earth-moon distances away from our planet.
Despite the expectation that 2015 TB145 will be much farther away from Earth in 2018 than it was two years ago, the researchers hope to gather more information on the asteroid when it makes its next flyby.
“Although this approach shall not be so favorable, we will be able to obtain new data which could help improve our knowledge of this mass and other similar masses that come close to our planet,” said lead author and Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia researcher Pablo Santos-Sanz in a statement.
“It is currently 3.7 astronomical units away from Earth, that is 3.7 times the average distance from the Earth to the sun,” said Santos-Sanz. “It has a magnitude of 26.5, which means it is only visible from Earth using very large telescopes or space telescopes.”
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At the moment, scientists believe that the Halloween asteroid might have been an extinct comet that had orbited the sun so many times that it lost all its water and other volatile materials. Asteroids are known to be rocky and metallic, as opposed to comets, which have greater ice and rock content, with the two objects tending to orbit the sun in different ways. But the IAA-CSIC press release stressed that it can sometimes be hard to differentiate an asteroid from a comet, especially so in the present day, as the boundaries between both objects “are becoming increasingly diffuse.”
While many people still refer to 2015 TB145 as the “Halloween asteroid,” it won’t be another seven decades or so before it can truly live up to its nickname once again. According to the researchers, 2015 TB145 will make its next Halloween return in 2088 and should be about 20 Earth-moon distances away from our planet by then.