Made you jump! Space to give Earth an asteroid Halloween scare

NASA warns cosmic rock travelling at ludicrous velocity

Halloween is traditionally a time for scares and the universe hasn't disappointed, sending a fast-moving asteroid down our way for a close encounter on October 31 at 1712 UTC (1012 PDT).

The asteroid, dubbed 2015 TB145, was only spotted 10 days ago by astronomers operating the Pan-STARRS I telescope in Hawaii and is thought to be a stray part of a comet. It's quite big as asteroids go, around a third of a kilometer across, but it's traveling at 35 kilometers per second, meaning when it hits something the results will be spectacular.

The asteroid will come within 498,896 kilometers of Earth, or about 1.3 times the distance between us and the Moon. That's the nearest asteroid flyby since 2006, and there won't be another one as close until August 2027, when 1999 AN10 comes to within one Moon's distance to Earth.

At least, that's what we hope. Given this asteroid was only spotted ten days ago it's perfectly possible that there are more out there waiting to skim by, or maybe hit us.

Sadly the asteroid isn't large enough to be visible with the naked eye. But a good 8- or 10-inch telescope should be able to pick it up, and NASA says the viewing opportunity shouldn't be missed.

"2015 TB145 could reach 10th magnitude before sunrise on October 31 for observers in North America, but it will be close to the waning gibbous Moon and probably challenging to see with small telescopes," it warned.

"The asteroid will be in Taurus at the time of closest approach. After closest approach 2015 TB145 will be a daytime object and too close to the Sun to observe with optical telescopes." ®


Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017