A skull-shaped asteroid “winked” at Earth on Halloween

A skull-shaped asteroid “winked” at Earth on Halloween

This is a radar image of the asteroid 2015 TB145, which is probably a dead comet, photographed using the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico on October 30, 2015 with a resolution of 25 feet per pixel.

On Halloween night, when ghouls and goblins suggested that people choose the traditional “sweetness or nastiness” a soul-chilling event occurred. The asteroid, which turned out to be a dead comet, swept at close range from our planet and was reflected in the radar images in the terrifying shape of the skull.

An asteroid named 2015 TB145 this Saturday (October 31) flew close to the Earth at a distance of 300,000 miles (480000 km), being very close to the lunar orbit and presenting no threat to the planet. During the flight, it was recorded that its length is 2000 feet (600 meters). The asteroid got the nickname “Ghost” and “Fun Pumpkin”.

Unfortunately for astronomers, lovers of 2015 TB145 were very difficult to see. However, on Saturday afternoon, a website was broadcast on the Slooh Observatory website, where you could follow the asteroid's entire journey and watch the discussion about the danger of celestial bodies flying near our planet.

NASA staff monitored the flight of a sky wanderer using an infrared radar using their NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) telescope, which is located in Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

According to the telescope it can be assumed that the asteroid is a dead comet. In the pictures of Arecibo, it seems that the asteroid purposely put on a skull mask to show it on Halloween.

Kelly Fast, an IRTF program scientist and NEO's research program manager, shared her opinion in a NASA statement on Friday (October 30). “Slooh works on a remote control and is used to record the motion of the asteroid 2015 TB145, which passed near the Earth. This dead comet looks like a fast-moving object on a starry background.

“We got fascinating images of an asteroid in the shape of a skull, taken by the Arecibo NASA laboratory.” Trisha Ennis from the Slooh project wrote in her e-mail: “We got unforgettable impressions of this creepy asteroid working on our Slooh project”.

Observation of the flight was controlled by scientists and allowed them to see the surface using a radar with a resolution of only 6, 6 feet (2 meters) on the surface. On Saturday, scientists sent a radio signal to the surface of a passing cosmic rock using a 110-foot wide (34 m) antenna, which is in the Deep Space Network complex in Goldstone, California. The radio waves, reaching the space object, reflected back to Earth and were saved by the Green Bank Telescope, which is located in West Virginia and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

The radar images detected the true dimensions of the asteroid, which turned out to be much more than the estimated, as well as its speed. The asteroid is racing at a tremendous speed of 78, 293 miles per hour (126, 000 km / h).

“It could have formed a six-mile crater if it had collided with the Earth, considering its size and speed,” said Mark Boslow, an expert on asteroids and a physicist at Sandy National Laboratory in New Mexico. He was also impressed with the radar image quality of 2015 TB145.

He stated: “This is great. An excellent high-resolution shot showing the features of its rotation, and even the surface of an asteroid. This is real science. ” According to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, this flight speed is very high. This object may indeed be a dead comet, but this does not mean that it does not contain volatile components that sublimate in space and form bright tails in comets.

“The object reflects about six percent of the light it receives from the sun,” said Vishnu Reddy, a research scientist at the Institute of Planetary Science, Tucson, Arizona, in a statement from NASA. “It is very similar to fresh asphalt, and we consider the surface dark on the ground, but it is lighter than it seems. Due to the lack of surface, it can be assumed that this is a dead comet. ”

“Also, its surface has an oblong shape and is below the plane of the solar system,” said Lars Benner, the lead observer of NASA asteroids in a JPL statement.

He added that this is the first time an object has been displayed at such close range. This asteroid, according to Banner, is the best for radar surveys, which we will observe in the next few years.

Asteroid 2015 TB145 was discovered only on October 10, less than a month from its closest approach to Earth. And by comparing its trajectories, the scientists were able to confirm that the asteroid was already moving closer to our planet in 1975 and that the next approach would take place no earlier than 2027.

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