In a recent announcement, the European Space Agency (ESA) confirmed that the Halloween asteroid will buzz past Earth at a close but safe distance. Asteroid 2015 TB145 is expected to zip past our planet at a distance of 300,000 miles from our planet, very close to the moon’s orbit.
Astronomers explained that taking into account the space rock’s size, which is 1,300-foot-wide, the flyby is relatively close. Nevertheless, as NASA had said last week, ESA confirmed that the asteroid is not on the course to hit our planet.
On Saturday, TB145 will be close enough to our planet to be detected by radars. Yet, the close encounter was a surprise to many space agencies, since the asteroid was first detected Oct. 10. Astronomers said that this is the closest encounter with a large asteroid we’ll witness until 2027, unless there are other surprise flybys.
NASA researchers said that because the space body is so close to us they will be able to analyze its surface through radars. With current technology, they will be able to see details down to a 6.6 feet resolution. Past flybys could only be observed at a 13.1 feet resolution.
Paul Chodas, the head of the Near Earth Object (NEO) center at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that the Halloween asteroid was ‘interesting’ because of the amount of boulders on its surface.
NASA plans to redirect a moving asteroid closer to Earth to be studied by scientists in a future mission. Chodas explained that TB145 is not a suitable candidate for the endeavor because its orbit is too tilted the Earth’s eliptic. As a result it would take too much energy to ‘catch’ and move around the space rock.
But TB145 is particularly interesting because of its boulders. Scientists plan to study their composition, number and see how well they are glued to the fast-moving space rock. TB145 was first spotted by a telescope managed by the University of Hawaii, which is involved in a federal program to hunt NEOs.
The Minor Planet Center announced that only in 2027 we will be able to see an asteroid of this size to whizz past our planet at a similar distance. In 2027, asteroid 1999 AN10 will also fly by our planet just outside the moon’s orbit.
Chodas declined to use the unofficial moniker ‘Spooky’ for the asteroid. He said that the scientists that discovered it were the only ones entitled to give it an official name.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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