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Photo: This Skull-Shaped Asteroid Swooped By Earth On Halloween
An asteroid that sped by earth on Halloween looks eerily like a skull in images captured by NASA. On October 31, scientists from NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) observed asteroid "2015 TB145" as it passed roughly 300,000 miles above Earth—just outside the orbit of the moon—according to CBS News. Given the timing of the asteroid's appearance it was referred to as "Spooky" and "The Great Pumpkin," and appropriately was considered a "dead" comet because it no longer contained the volatile ingredients that give comets their bright tails, according to NASA.
But, best of all, the radar images of the asteroid revealed that it looks like a skull.
Whoa, animated images of asteroid 2015 TB145 (Images courtesy of NAIC-ARECIBO/NSF)
"The IRTF data may indicate that the object might be a dead comet, but in the Arecibo images it appears to have donned a skull costume for its Halloween flyby," explains Kelly Fast, IRTF program scientist at NASA Headquarters and acting program manager for NASA's NEO Observations Program, in a statement.
According to NASA, the skull asteroid is traveling at 78,000 miles per hour, and is about 2,000 feet across. Besides the cavities, boulders, and ridges that give it the skull-like appearance, the asteroid is said to be roughly spherical and takes around five hours to complete a rotation. NASA also just released more detailed radar images of the skull-shaped asteroid, but none of them look as metal as the initial ones.
Using a huge Earth-based antenna in Goldstone, California, scientists transmitted microwaves toward the asteroid, according to Tech Times. And from the radar echoes of the microwaves, they were able to piece together dramatically clear images of the asteroid.
"It is a truly remarkable achievement — one which we will later be able to apply when future flyby opportunities present themselves," said Shantanu Naidu, a member of the research team.
The next time the skull-shaped asteroid will pass by Earth is expected to be in September, 2018, but it will be 24 million miles away—a bit too far away to scare anybody on our planet.