NASA: “Great Pumpkin” asteroid to zip by Earth on Halloween

NASA says sky watchers would need at least a small telescope to view the 1,300-foot-wide asteroid

nasa-great-pumpkin-asteroid-to-zip-by-earth-on-halloween

The orbit of asteroid 2015 TB145. The asteroid will safely fly past Earth slightly farther out than the moon's orbit on Oct. 31 at 10:05 a.m. Pacific (1:05 p.m. EDT).

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA says the Halloween flyby of a 1,300-foot-wide asteroid will offer professional and non-skilled sky watchers an up-close – by celestial criteria – look at a pretty large piece of space rubble.

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The asteroid, 2015 TB145 will fly past Earth at a safe distance slightly farther than the moon's orbit on Oct. 31 at 10:01 a.m. PDT (1:01 p.m. EDT). According to the catalog of near-Earth objects (NEOs) kept by the Minor Planet Center, this is the closest currently known approach by an object this large until asteroid 1999 AN10, at about 2,600 feet in size, approaches at about 1 lunar distance (238,000 miles from Earth) in August 2027, NASA stated in a release.

“The trajectory of 2015 TB145 is well understood," said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California in a statement. "At the point of closest approach, it will be no closer than about 300,000 miles -- 480,000 kilometers or 1.3 lunar distances. Even though that is relatively close by celestial standards, it is expected to be fairly faint, so night-sky Earth observers would need at least a small telescope to view it."

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During the asteroid’s fly-by, scientists will use the 34-meter antenna at Goldstone to bounce radio waves off the asteroid. Radar echoes will in turn be collected by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Green Bank Telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia, and the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center's Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico. NASA scientists said they hope to obtain radar images of the asteroid as fine as about 7 feet per pixel. This should reveal a wealth of detail about the object's surface features, shape, dimensions and other physical properties, the space agency stated.

NASA said it s Near-Earth Object Observations Program detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing within 30 million miles of Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The NEOO Program, sometimes called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes the physical nature of a subset of them, and predicts their paths to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet. There are no known credible impact threats to date -- only the ongoing and harmless in-fall of meteoroids, tiny asteroids that burn up in the atmosphere, NASA stated.

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