A Huge Skull Shaped Comet Is Heading For Earth (Sort Of)
Comets can be fairly terrifying. Huge chunks of flaming rocks flinging themselves through the sky at a rate of knots, waiting to crash into something. If you're not afraid of comets... Well, ask a dinosaur what they think of them.
What could be more terrifying than a ball of flame whistling through the sky at millions of miles an hour? Well, that would be a ball of flame whistling through the sky at millions of miles an hour shaped like a human skull. As Mitchell & Webb's Nazis would have put it, this comet is definitely the baddies.
The skull comet last flew past the earth in October 2015, fittingly around Halloween, and is set to pass us again in the middle of November. NASA has named it the 'Great Pumpkin' after the Charlie Brown story, presumably because 'Skull Comet' sounded a little intimidating.
"The trajectory of 2015 TB145 is well understood," said Paul Chosas, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, at the time of the first sighting of the comet in 2015.
"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."
Dead comet that will safely zip by Earth on Oct 31 looks eerie like a skull: https://t.co/8bq4UBrFO9 #HappyHalloween pic.twitter.com/gICZTSLcZr
- NASA (@NASA) October 30, 2015
NASA called it a 'potentially hazardous near-Earth object' and warned that 'impacts represent a significant risk to human and other forms of life', the NSS wrote in a report on potentially deadly asteroids.
The asteroid missed the Earth by 300,000 miles - just a little over the distance between the Earth and the Moon, so nearby in space terms - but will come nowhere near as close this time, passing us from a distance of 25 million miles.
Scientists are calling it a dead comet, as it fails to reflect light and, well, it is shaped like a skull.
"We found that the object reflects about 6 percent of the light it receives from the sun," said Vishnu Reddy, of the Planetary Science Institute.
"That is similar to fresh asphalt, and while here on Earth we think that is pretty dark, it is brighter than a typical comet which reflects only 3 to 5 percent of the light. That suggests it could be cometary in origin - but as there is no coma evident, the conclusion is it is a dead comet."
Featured Image Credit: SINC/Jose Antonio Pena