Earth Will Get a Spooky Visitor in 2018

Skull-shaped asteroid expected to zip by in November
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 25, 2017 12:04 PM CST
Updated Dec 30, 2017 5:58 PM CST
Earth to Be Visited by a Halloween 'Skull'
An artist's rendering of the asteroid, which resembles a skull at certain angles.   (J.A. Penas/SINC)

Earth will get its own Halloween decoration next year, though a little late. In mid-November, a skull-shaped asteroid will make its second flyby past Earth since it was discovered just beyond the moon in October 2015. It went on to pass by Earth on Oct. 31, 2015, prompting it to be nicknamed the Halloween asteroid. Officially known as 2015 TB145, it spends most of its time beyond Mars and Jupiter, per Newsweek. But its orbit brings it close to Earth every 3.04 years, reports Because of the tilted shape of the orbit, it will be farther from Earth in 2018 than in 2015—it won't be so close again for 500 years, per Science Alert—but researchers still hope to get the opportunity to learn more about the rock, considered "potentially hazardous" by NASA because of its close approaches.

In 2015, the asteroid came within 300,000 miles of Earth—as a gauge, the moon is 239,000 miles away. In 2018, it will be at 105 times the latter distance. "Although this approach shall not be so favorable, we will be able to obtain new data which could help improve our knowledge of this mass and other similar masses that come close to our planet," researcher Pablo Santos-Sanz says, per SINC. So far, experts have gathered the asteroid is around 2,100 feet wide, rotates once every three to five hours, and looks like a skull from some angles. They also suspect it was once a comet that lost its water during close encounters with the sun. Santos-Sanz says it's now quite dark, reflecting 5% to 6% of sunlight, making it "only slightly more reflective than charcoal." (More space stories.)

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