No "Tricks" Expected From Surprise Asteroid That Will Whiz Past Earth On Halloween

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Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Looking for a spooky Halloween tale? How about this? According to NASA scientists, an asteroid measuring between 1,050 to 2,100 feet will be making its way towards Earth on October 31st. While the massive space rock that will be zooming in at a rapid 78,000 mph will not hit us, it will come startlingly close - Within 1.3 times the distance of the moon (about 310,000 miles) - The closest such encounter since 2006.

While the news of any asteroid coming this close to Earth is scary, this one is even more so. That's because researchers did not even know that 2015 TB145 AKA "Spooky" even existed until October 10th. Richard Wainscoat, the principal investigator for Hawaii-based Pan-STARRS telescope that searches the skies for comets, asteroids, and other moving objects, says Spooky managed to sneak upon us due to its strange orbit.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

According to Wainscott, the sun and planets are arranged in a flat disk shape, or what experts call an ecliptic plane. Most of the asteroids that lie in the area between Mars and Jupiter orbit within this plane. However, Spooky cuts a path at a 40° angle to the line of the ecliptic plane.

Paul Chodas, who heads up NASA's Near-Object program says that since it is a region of the sky that rarely has any asteroids, it is not searched as often. Another reason the space rock was hard to detect is because it orbits the Sun every three years and, therefore, is not close to Earth very often.

Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Also similar to other asteroids that sport an oval-shaped orbit it's speed changes depending on the location. When it is furthest away from Earth (and the inner solar system) it moves around slowly, making it difficult to detect. It is only when the asteroid gets closer to the inner solar system that it gets pulled by the sun's gravity and gains momentum. Given that Spooky spends less than 5% of its time in the inner solar system, Chodas thinks it is amazing that we were even able to see it when we did. He attributes this to the thoroughness of NASA's surveys.

Given that there is no danger of any kind, researchers and fans are looking forward to the arrival of special space visitor which will be visible to U.S. residents on the evening of October 30th and well into the early hours (PST) of October 31st.

Photo Credit: NASA.gov

The close encounter will help researchers deduce the asteroid's exact size and also determine if it has a moon. This would help them ascertain Spooky's mass and allow them calculate its density and composition. However, according to Chodas, the most important reason to observe the surprise visitor is "The more asteroids we can see up close, the more we'll learn about them, and the better prepared we'll be if we ever need to deflect one."

And if you think Spooky is close, then you may want to brace yourself for NEO1999 that will flyby within 1 lunar distance (about 385,000 km) from the Earth's surface in August 2027.

Resources: gizmag.com,popsci.com,extremtech.com

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ascertainasteroidcometscompositiondeducedeflectdensitydetecteclipticencountermomentumorbitstartlinglythoroughness
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Reading Comprehension (3 questions)

  1. What is the size of the asteroid that will pass by Earth on October 31st?
  2. How fast will it be going?
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Critical Thinking Challenge

Why is it important for scientists to track near-Earth asteroids?

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Vocabulary in Context

“Another reason the space rock was hard to detect is because it orbits the Sun every three years and, therefore, is not close to Earth very often.”

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693 Comments
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  • cen85
    cen85Sunday, April 16, 2017 at 3:04 am
    well thanks to the scientists!!!
    • ///Tuesday, October 25, 2016 at 1:36 pm
      thats coll
      • ???Monday, September 26, 2016 at 7:40 am
        nevermind
        • ???Monday, September 26, 2016 at 7:40 am
          did it hit?
          • Don't Jugde DogWednesday, August 17, 2016 at 5:01 pm
            Omg this is soo not creepy it's amaz...ing!!! It's so cool that it would come like that!! It's so interesting how that could happen! So gonna use this topic as my school report
            • gladdisiator
              gladdisiatorTuesday, June 7, 2016 at 9:27 am
              Oh the irony! Just so funny that a skull shaped asteroid would pass by on Halloween!
              • THE FUTER Friday, April 15, 2016 at 9:57 am
                THATS INTRISTING
                • nflchampion36
                  nflchampion36Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at 7:20 am
                  Now that just gives me the creeps
                  • cow tamerWednesday, January 27, 2016 at 6:02 am
                    wow
                    • SPaC3Saturday, January 23, 2016 at 2:47 pm
                      We shall approach Earth in 2027. Asteroids will be destroyed for eternity. These horrid SPaC3 rocks mustn't reign over the Kuiper Belt no longer. (lol jk. aliens don't exist. :P)
                      • sharifa113
                        sharifa113Wednesday, November 1, 2017 at 4:33 am
                        They might exist scientist don't know yet.

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