This Terrifying Skull-Faced Asteroid Is Back, And Scientists Are Stoked

This November, asteroid 2015 TB145 will be making its triumphant return, and scientists are excited to gather more information about its behavior. The spooky skull-shaped asteroid made its debut on Halloween of 2015, flying within 300,000 miles of Earth. This time, it won’t pass quite so close.

TB145 Will Be Giving Us A Wide Berth This Year

Researchers think that TB145 will only get within 105 lunar distances from Earth this time around (that’s the same as traveling to the moon over 100 times). Still a healthy distance, but right next door in terms of space travel.

As of December 20th of last year, the asteroid was still a whopping 3.7 astronomical units away from Earth. That’s 3.7 times the average distance to the Sun!


NASA/JPL

 

Analyzing An Asteroid Is A Team Effort

Dissecting the asteroid’s movement has been a worldwide effort. In 2015, researchers first spotted the flying skull from an observatory in Hawaii. NASA then analyzed the asteroid’s trajectory from telescopes in West Virginia and Puerto Rico.

In some of the early images, the asteroid looked eerily similar to a skull. Hey, if you’re going to show up on Halloween, you better dress to impress, asteroid or no asteroid. 

Thanks to the collective effort, we know that the asteroid will take the following path as it journeys towards Earth.


NASA/JPL

Acquiring all the data needed to analyze TB145 was no small feat. It’s a big rock, but it’s also dark, very dark. The asteroid has a reflectivity of only 5-6 percent, the same as a piece of charcoal. That means that the majority of its surface swallows up light like a black hole. 

How Long Are The Days On A Skull-Faced Asteroid?

According to experts in Spain, it takes TB145 roughly 2.94 hours to complete a rotation, although researchers agree that 4.78 hours is also an accurate estimate. Not a slow rate for a 2,100-foot-wide hunk of minerals!

Researchers are excited to get whatever extra data they can come November. It’ll be their last opportunity. The next generation of scientists won’t get their crack at it until TB145 returns in 2088.

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