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This Asteroid Will Come Eerily Close to Earth on Halloween

Concept image of a large asteroid passing by Earth and the Moon

A recently-discovered asteroid named 2015 TB145 will come within 1.3 lunar distances of Earth on Oct. 31, 2015. (Illustration by J. Major.)

Yes, it’s true: a rather not-so-tiny near-Earth asteroid SKULL-SHAPED ZOMBIE COMET (see below) 2015 TB145 will make a relatively close pass by our dear planet Earth on October 31, aka Halloween — the day when certain beliefs profess that the veil separating the worlds of the living and the dead is at its thinnest, allowing spiritual and even physical interaction to occur between both.

Of course there is no scientific evidence that the latter is at all true but it makes for good scary stories around the light of a campfire. And as the first-world campfires of today are the stark lights of computer monitors and smartphone screens, some are trying to weave scary stories about the passing of this asteroid as well. Should you be afraid? Certainly not. (But there is a cautionary tale to be told.)

While there isn’t anything to be concerned about from 2015 TB145, it will pass relatively near to Earth, coming as close as about 500,000 kilometers (310,000 miles) at 17:05 UTC on Oct. 31.* And it is of considerable size — somewhere in the range of 290-650 meters (950-2,133 feet) in diameter, which isn’t enormous for asteroids BUT you certainly wouldn’t want it landing in your back yard (especially considering that it’s traveling an “unusually high” relative velocity of almost 35 km/s… that’s over 78,000 mph!)

If you’re thinking that seems like a big size range for an object like this to “possibly” be, there’s a reason (and thus the cautionary tale) — 2015 TB145 was just discovered this month.

The NEO 2015 TB145 was identified on Oct. 10, 2015 via the PanSTARRS I (Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System) survey telescope, located atop Mount Haleakala in Hawaii. The goal of PanSTARRS is specifically to locate objects like this, so it accomplished exactly what it should. But it also reminds us that there are still as-yet undiscovered objects out there orbiting the Sun in the vicinity of our planet, and it’s important that we maintain vigilance and continue supporting global efforts to find and study them.

As it passes Earth 2015 TB145 will be observed with some of the best radar telescopes on the planet — NASA’s DSS-13 at Goldstone, California and NRAO’s Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia (and possibly also with the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.) Because TB145 is so dark (absolute magnitude currently listed as 19.8) optical observations won’t reveal much, but radar can help scientists “see” the asteroid and determine its size, shape, and rotation and better plot out its orbital trajectory into the future…especially where it concerns its encounters with our planet.

According to a news statement on NASA’s Goldstone site, “The flyby presents a truly outstanding scientific opportunity to study the physical properties of this object.”

(Who knows… they may find that it has a little moon of its own. There are plenty of asteroids that do.)

NASA won’t be the only ones watching this object’s pass either — plenty of amateur astronomers around the world will have their ‘scopes set on 2015 TB145’s path, especially in the Middle East where it will still be dark during its closest approach. Find out how to view TB145 here, and you can watch a live broadcast of the viewing on the Slooh site here starting at 12:30 p.m. ET (16:30 UTC) on Oct. 31.

First images of asteroid 2015 TB145 from the Slooh Chile High Magnification Telescope on Oct. 22

First images of asteroid 2015 TB145 from the Slooh Chile High Magnification Telescope on Oct. 22

There is some significance to this pass too: this will be the closest known approach by an object this large until the 800-meter asteroid 1999 AN10 approaches at about 1 lunar distance in August 2027. (Source)

And, based on TB145’s orbit and high velocity, it’s suspected that it might even actually be a comet.

“The asteroid’s orbit is very oblong with a high inclination to below the plane of the solar system,” said Lance Benner of JPL, who leads NASA’s asteroid radar research program. “Such a unique orbit, along with its high encounter velocity — about 35 kilometers or 22 miles per second — raises the question of whether it may be some type of comet. If so, then this would be the first time that the Goldstone radar has imaged a comet from such a close distance.”

The highly-inclined orbit of 2015 TB145 (NASA/JPL)

The highly-inclined orbit of 2015 TB145 (NASA/JPL)

So while NASA isn’t spooked by 2015 TB145 (and you shouldn’t be either) we should all still be aware that we’re certainly not the only ones traveling on this road around the Sun… there’s always the chance of running into the occasional traffic. It’s important that we spot them — especially the big ones — first.

“We as humans are living on a planet that’s in a sort of celestial shooting gallery, and there are lots of objects out in space, primarily asteroids, that come close and do hit us from time to time.”
— David Morrison, Senior Scientist at NASA Ames Research Laboratory (Ret.)

See more information on 2015 TB145 on JPL’s NEO site here.

*2015 TB145 will also pass closely by our Moon, coming within about two-thirds that distance two and a half hours prior.

UPDATE 10/30: radar observations from the Arecibo Observatory have been used to create an image of the quite-dark 2015 TB145 and, if it wasn’t spooky enough that the asteroid is passing on Halloween, it even bears an uncanny resemblance to a giant skull and it might really be a comet — a dead one. Read more here.

UPDATE 12/14: Research by the Planetary Science Institute’s Vishnu Reddy on the spectra from TB145 has shown that it is very likely a dead comet, as initially suggested. Read more here.

This animated GIF was generated using radar data collected by the National Science Foundation's 1,000-foot (305-meter) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The six radar images used in the animation were taken on Oct. 30, 2015, and the image resolution is 25 feet (7.5 meters) per pixel. Credits: NAIC-Arecibo/NSF

This animated GIF was generated using radar data collected by the National Science Foundation’s 1,000-foot (305-meter) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The six radar images used in the animation were taken on Oct. 30, 2015, and the image resolution is 25 feet (7.5 meters) per pixel. Credits: NAIC-Arecibo/NSF

_________________________________

Just for fun (whee!) I ran some of the known values for 2015 TB145 through an online impact calculator developed by Dr. Andrew Scott at the University of South Wales. Assuming that TB145 is composed of mainly porous rock (if it’s a comet it could even be less dense; if a stony/iron asteroid more) then a totally direct strike on Earth at a 90º angle in, say, New York City would leave a crater 9,767 feet (2,977 meters) wide and 2,080 feet (634 m) deep — bigger than Barringer Crater in Flagstaff, AZ. Luckily impacts of this magnitude are 1-in-75,000-plus year events (and don’t specifically target major cities!) But needless to say it would be a very bad day in the Big Apple.

The crater left from a direct hit by TB145 would stretch clear across Manhattan island! (Down 2 Earth Crater Impact calculator)

The crater left from a direct hit by TB145 would stretch clear across Manhattan island! (Down 2 Earth Crater Impact calculator)

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About Jason Major

Jason is a Rhode Island-based graphic designer, photographer, nature lover, space exploration fanatic, and coffee addict. In no particular order.

Posted on October 21, 2015, in Asteroids and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 128 Comments.

  1. Kind of scary that we only identified this a few weeks ago. It serves the creepy fact that our solar system, let alone the whole universe, is so freaking vast, with so many objects swirling around, making it very hard for “us” to identify them.

    What would happen if we found that this object was heading straight towards us? Do we have a plan for that?

    Liked by 18 people

  2. To put it in perspective, the rate of impacts on Earth by objects the size of TB145 are about 1 in every 75,000-100,000 years. So very low. But you definitely wouldn’t want to be in the area on the particular day one *does* hit. Something this size and speed wouldn’t wipe us out by any means, but it would do severe damage to a populated area or city.

    Liked by 10 people

  3. It’s not too late to get an Asteroid costume with overnight shipping.

    Liked by 15 people

  4. Does anyone else think it’s only a big deal because it’s on Halloween. If it was any other day then it would probably never make the news.

    Liked by 9 people

  5. Oh wow that caught me off guard for a moment, however a very interesting read. 😊 if you don’t mind it would be great to see some new faces in my blog, I hope you guys will enjoy my blog, as much as enjoy this one, thank you 😊

    Liked by 8 people

  6. When I read this, I felt much like I do when I watch NGT on Cosmos (or just about anything, really) – very small, but filled with a very big awe. The universe is pretty darn marvelous.

    Liked by 11 people

    • it makes me think like that too, and then you look at everyone and everything that goes on here, all the crime, and everything and makes you realize how self centered everyone is. We are a tiny little planet, in a really big and hostile universe, and here on our tiny spec of a planet, everyone is trying to tear one another a part for power or money. Crazy.

      Liked by 6 people

  7. How does this one compare to the big hit that happened over Siberia early in the 20th Century? That was a nasty smack. Would TB145 be bigger, lesser, or about the same?

    Liked by 11 people

  8. You suppose the dinosaurs thought it wasn’t a big deal too?

    Liked by 12 people

  9. I am of strong belief that the world wont come to an end through asteriod impact (asteriod might only come when we have developed the technology to destroy it before impact…watch the movie… Armageddon)

    Liked by 6 people

  10. So freaky! What if its heading straighr for us?!?

    Liked by 8 people

  11. Félicitations pour ce post ! 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

  12. Well, should the biggy decide to visit us someday, I dont want to know. Nice stats you punched in. I’m a huge science geek I love this stuff.

    Liked by 10 people

  13. I DON’T NOW BUT I DON’T BELIVE IN THIS

    Liked by 6 people

  14. its good that it’ll not hit, but kinda creepy though. It’s like something’s bout to happen on halloween.😱

    Liked by 7 people

  15. So THIS is where the alien vampires will come from!

    Liked by 9 people

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  17. Great blog!
    Pls check out my photography blog 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

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  19. Fascinating…. love the image of the big blot on the landscape, should Armageddon happen in NYC.

    Liked by 6 people

  20. Haha It will pass Earth on Halloween! I guess its an artificial capturer sent by the aliens to get to know how weird people look on this day! 😛 😀 😉

    Liked by 5 people

  21. Reblogged this on realitygenia and commented:
    Thank you, your article was very interesting and insightful!

    Liked by 5 people

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  23. When I imagine the strength of the nature here on Earth, I can’t even begin to grasp the power and energy these space objects have. Such a shame that it is not a big bigger so that I could observe it with a lower quality telescope.

    Liked by 8 people

  24. Hypothetically-if the asteroid was to hit the earth; the world would be working together to destroy the asteroid, one thing all countries are skill at is destroying objects.

    Liked by 5 people

  25. richardbolger61

    150MILLION KILOMETERS OF LIGHT SOLAR?

    Liked by 1 person

  26. So lets enjoy Halloween as if it would be our last 😂👌🏼

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Thank you Jason, this was very enjoyable to read- and insightful on the maths at the same time! Very succinctly and humanly put- unlike the monotonous labour of reading scientific reports -winks- a very entertaining feature!

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Wow,imagine if that asteroid was above your house the night of halloween, spooky but cool right👻

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Reblogged this on The Missal.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. How will they determine if it is a comet? If it forms a tail as it approaches the sun?

    Liked by 3 people

  31. Thank you for such an informative and well-written piece, though scientificaly thick as I am, I won’t be able to recount the details after a few days!

    Liked by 3 people

  32. @knowledgeblog2015

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Interesting article. Then for the night of Halloween let us out our umbrellas and let us be going all to sleep in our shelters anti-nuclear. And instead of saying “tricks or treat”, we shall say “tricks or asteroid “…
    Jeff Barani from Vence (France)

    Liked by 3 people

  34. I’ll hide inside this halloween

    Liked by 3 people

  35. Omg that is so cool still carnt wait for hallaween 👻💀

    Liked by 3 people

  36. Reblogged On kissandtelwithRip

    Liked by 2 people

  37. the universe is sending us a big cookie again

    Liked by 3 people

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    Liked by 3 people

  39. Wow, I hope not! But nice photo! Nevertheless, please check out my site of poetry. You’ll either love it or relate. http://Www.poetrybykiah.wordpress.com

    Liked by 3 people

  40. When smth like this will happen, the only thing you can do is…to stay calm…and to open an umbrella

    Liked by 3 people

    • And recall that a collission with a massive object has happened one time in more than one billion years. And this object was the predicate cause of mammals evolving and flourishing and becoming all kinds of weird stuff including homo sapiens sapiens.

      Whose name calls them “smart smart,” though some of us fear rocks from space when anything big enough to worry about would have to be mostly ice. Space is a big place with big things but then there’s the magnetosphere, the moon, asteroid belt, gas giants, gravity, solar weather, the sun etc all conspiring to make this planet safe from outside intrusion (alien-free thanks to the light-speed limiting factor) and ergo much more likely to die of a burst aneurysm caused by straining while seated on a toilet than anything outside our atmosphere which funny enough is inside the sun’s as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  41. I’m hoping to see it. The fact that it can be seen on halloween day makes it so interesting.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. I would have loved to have seen it, unfortunately halloween equaled work. I was hoping it would be more like the movies and those fools at nasa had miscalculated, but no such luck lol

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Wow! This is really scary.

    Liked by 1 person

  44. The object is an asteroid with an orbit that rarely crosses the ecliptic and with an orbit that keeps it usually beyond Mars. This orbit and it’s density suggest it may have been a comet (comets originate in the Oort Cloud, the edge of which Pluto hangs about. Ish. It is an asteroid now because it no longer … does anything a comet does and does all the things the asteroids in and around the asteroid belt that cinches the solar system’s rocky planets off from the has giants. Like any non-planetary object orbiting the sun, it can be considered a planetoid because of some strange sentiment in re Pluto and the invention of the term making every ball of metallic rocky icy dust whatever Pluto is called to keep people from the sorrow that is knowing Pluto is an asteroid in the aforementioned cloud. …Gun fact: Despite what we know from Star Wars, piloting a ship through any asteroid belt or cloud would be unlikely to involve seeing one. Though some of these objects are huge, space is unfathomably in its hugeness. Also, were one terribly dense (impossible — had they such gravity they would have joined in creating planets instead of being banished to etc etc all objects are exactly what they are for very well-understood reasons. Also, the asteroid has been imaged using radio waves, as it of course emits no light. Ergo amateur astronomers have snowballs chance of seeing it, considering it’s a pain to become and be kept aware of if one is an astronomer.

    Finally, if an object like this were going to collide with earth, one hopes reason would be a dictator and keep this fact from the general population. The general population, when made aware of such things, immediately goes into a state of panic that kills and harms more members of itself than any known event in human history save a few -demics, and arguably.

    dbmllc
    alienandroid syndicalism

    Like

  45. Glad that it didnt hit. I do see the irony in it through lol looking like a skull and being holloween. Though it will only be a matter of time before one does hit earth. As we seem to be sitting ducks

    Like

  46. As time goes bye,they are getting smaller and fewer.

    Like

  47. Ohhh! My bad luck that I didn’t see this post before 31 oct. otherwise I would have tried to see it with my telescope.I love astronomy very much actually ,its interesting and mysterious.Just like language 🙂

    Like

  48. I seem to remember many years back two asteroids, one about 2ks dia, the other about half that (not sure of sizes accuracy) was reported in the press here (Australia) after the fact of course, that they sailed (if that is an appropriate word) past us passing between the Moon and Earth. Now that event would make it the closest pass by ever, surely? This happened (I think over 25 years ago….memory a bit hazy on that. cheers, fog

    Like

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