A Halloween Fly-By

Halloween is fast approaching and NASA has been working on a suitable treat for all of its fans. On October 31 at 10:05 am, space enthusiasts should be prepared for an asteroid flyby, at a safe distance of course. If you have access to an observatory you could get a close up of this baby or glimpse it at home with a telescope. Scientists will be actively scanning asteroid 2015 TB145 from “spacecraft Earth” during what they consider a “close pass”.

This hunk of rock is new to the asteroid catalog. It was only discovered this past October 10 by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS-1 telescope that is part of a NASA funded program. The Minor Planet Center keeps a catalog of near-Earth objects (NEOs) and they consider this fly-by to be the closest pass by such an object until August 2027 when asteroid 1999 AN10, a 2,600 feet wide asteroid, is expected to approach from a distance of 238,000 miles. TB145, estimated to be about 1,300 feet wide, should keep its distance at about 300,000 miles, zipping around at a steady velocity of about twenty-two miles per hour. It will be close enough that Earthlings can view it in the night sky with the aid of a telescope.

The unusual oblong orbit and high velocity has caused some to speculate it may actually be a comet. NASA’s asteroid radar research program will be taking advantage of this opportunity to test new radar imaging technology. As scientists track the asteroid, they expect to capture detailed images that will produce about seven feet per pixel depicting fine details of the asteroid’s surface, shape and other physical properties.

Now, just to put to rest all the excitement the doom and gloomers may want to attempt to raise, “Spaceguard” has officially declared that there are “no known credible impact threats”. Spaceguard is the nickname for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program (NEOO). Scientists involved with this program track asteroids and comets with ground and space telescopes. They discover these objects, catalog their characteristics and study them in order to predict their future paths. Their work helps to determine whether any of these NEOs pose any potential hazard to Earthlings, astronauts deployed to the ISS or to any of the many satellites and bits of technology floating about the cosmos. So, no need to begin the prepping unless that means running out and buying a telescope so you can get a peek at our other-worldly trick-or-treater that will be flying by.

Source & Photo: http://www.nasa.gov