An asteroid that shares an uncanny resemblance to a human skull will coincidentally fly high above Earth after Halloween festivities have come to an end.
Aptly nicknamed “The Great Pumpkin,” asteroid 2015 TB145 last flew past Earth on Oct. 31, 2015. Astronomers who had been tracking the asteroid detected that it approached Earth at a near 302,000-mile-distance, NASA reported. To give you an idea of how close that is, the moon orbits around Earth at an average of 239,000 miles away.
To make the astronomical oddity even creepier, scientists studying the space rock — which is somewhere between 2,050 and 2,300 feet wide — believe that the skeleton-like asteroid is actually a dead comet. “We found that the object reflects about six percent of the light it receives from the sun,” Vishnu Reddy, a research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, said in a 2015 statement. “That is similar to fresh asphalt, and while here on Earth we think that is pretty dark, it is brighter than a typical comet which reflects only 3 to 5 percent of the light. That suggests it could be cometary in origin — but as there is no coma evident, the conclusion is it is a dead comet.”
While the idea of a dead comet hitting our planet might induce more fear than a haunted house or real-life skeletons, astronomy observers can rest assured that come Nov. 11, The Great Pumpkin will keep at a safe 24-million-mile distance from Earth, reported Mother Nature Network.
Since night-sky observers needed a small telescope to watch The Great Pumpkin soar through the stars three Halloweens ago, it is unlikely you will be able to see the comet this time around. Despite the unfavorable conditions, researcher Pablo Santos-Sanz from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia says the flyby will enable the institution to “obtain new data which could help improve our knowledge of this mass and other similar masses that come close to our planet.”
And while you patiently wait for the eerie comet to make its next reappearance in late Oct. of 2088, mark your calendars for Aug. 7, 2027 and April 13, 2029, when asteroids are next expected to get as close to Earth as the Great Pumpkin did in 2015.
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