Discovered only a few weeks ago, an asteroid is deemed the astronomic Halloween surprise to whizz past Earth. Nicknamed Spooky or the Great Pumpkin, the asteroid received the scientific name TB145.
While it is indeed a surprise pop-up scheduled on the night between October 30th and October 31st, there’s really little need to worry about the tricking part. It’s more of a treat as the event represents the closest trajectory to Earth than that of any other known object for the next 20 years.
Thus, for all enthusiasts that want to catch a glimpse of Spooky or TB145 right on Halloween, prepare at least a small telescope and check a list of best visibility spots. Asteroid TB145 is estimated to be approximately 1,300 feet wide. For the sake of comparison, that width is 20 times the width of the meteor exploding in 2013 over the Russian Chelyabinsk. With a loud bang and a plenty of damage.
Although asteroid TB145 has only been discovered a few weeks ago, its trajectory is already known. Scientists with the NASA Center for Near-Earth Object Studies have assured that there is really no need for apocalyptic scenarios. At the closest point to the Earth, Spooky will be at a safe distance of 300,000 miles. That is just a bit farther than the moon is from our home planet. It is estimated that asteroid TB145 will fly by with a speed of 22 miles per second and will reach the closest point to Earth on October 31st.
What’s most surprising about the astronomic Halloween surprise to whizz past Earth is its orbit. Unusually oblong, it makes asteroid TB 145 cut through the flat disc-plane of the solar system at 40 degrees angle.
The last time Spooky whizzed past Earth was in 1975. At the time, Earth was located on a different spot on the orbit and not many observations have been made. However, scientists do have a few questions related to TB 145. Lance Benner with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory stated:
“Such a unique orbit, along with its high encounter velocity, raises the question of whether it may be some type of comet”.
To answer a few of the questions, NASA plans several observations as the asteroid approaches earth, taking advantage of the opportunity. Spotted with the Pan-STARRS telescope hosted at the University of Hawaii, Spooky is on the radar of the Goldstone 110-feet DSS 13 antenna, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Green Bank Telescope, the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center’s Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico and many more.
As Halloween approaches, prepare your telescopes for a glance of the asteroid TB 145. Afterwards, prepare for NASA released images and certainly more information on Spooky.
Photo Credits: Flickr