Skull-Shaped “Death Comet” Asteroid Will Pass by Earth Just After Halloween
We're getting ready for Halloween, and this year, it looks like space is too. The asteroid officially known as 2015 TB145—also called "the Death Comet"—is set to fly by Earth on November 11, 2018.
The asteroid doesn't pose a threat to the planet. Instead, the asteroid gets its name from its appearance. The depressions in the surface of the space object look, undeniably, like a skull (hence the moniker "Death Comet"). In an additional spooky circumstance, TB124 was first identified in 2015, when it surprised radar astronomers and flew past Earth on Halloween.
TB145 was discovered by the University of Hawaii Pan-STARRS-1 (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System), which is located on the Hawaiian island of Maui, and is part of NASA's Near-Earth Object Observation (NEOO) Program. They keep an eye on—you guessed it—space objects located near Earth. The first image of the asteroid came from the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. You can see that image below.
When the asteroid passes by Earth next month, it will be at a safe distance of approximately 24 million miles, or 38.6 million kilometers. This is closer than its first observation in 2015, when it flew by Earth at a distance of 310,000 miles, or 498,900 kilometers.
According to Samford University's Christenberry Planetarium, "The ‘Death Comet' is hypothesized to be a dead comet, meaning the volatile elements such as frozen water, carbon dioxide, ammonia, and methane have been previously shed, so it has no tail. This comet measures 400 meters (1,300 feet) in diameter and is predicted to maintain a safe distance from the Earth." Whew, that's a relief. They also note, "This comet will be able to be viewed with a small telescope on November 11th of this year."
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Will you break out the telescope to try to catch a glimpse of the Death Comet this year? Let us know if you do!