Astronomers captured images of a skull-shaped Halloween asteroid streaking by Earth on Saturday, nicknaming it "Spooky" and obtaining rare data on this eerie intruder in our solar system. Asteroid 2015 TB145 zipped past Earth at 78,293 mph on Oct. 31 at a range of just over 300,000 miles, barely outside the orbit of our moon, and was observed by scientists around the world. Thought to be a dead comet, this scary-looking asteroid measured in at approximately 2,000 feet across and was first discovered on Oct. 10. Its close proximity to the Earth made it one of the best objects to utilize radar imaging on in many years.
Scientists shot radio waves at the near-Earth space rock using a 110-foot-wide antenna at NASA's Deep Space Network facility in Goldstone, Calif. The return radio waves bouncing off the asteroid were then collected and processed with the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory. Mapping its trajectory, astronomers were able to deduce that this visitor had done a similar flyby back in 1975.
"This would generate a 6-mile-wide crater if it were to hit the Earth, something of this size and speed," said asteroid expert Mark Boslough, a physicist at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. "This is beautiful. It's such a high-resolution, nice image. You can see it rotating you can see features on the surface. This is great science."
Have a look at this skeleton-faced asteroid below and tell us how glad you are it didn't come any closer!