‘Halloween’ Asteroid to Journey Near Earth
A large asteroid, 2015 TB145, is expected to pass within 300,000 miles of Earth on Oct. 31.
The 400 meter asteroid was discovered on Oct. 10 by the University of Hawai’i’s Pan-STARRS1 Telescope atop Haleakala, Maui.
University of Hawai’i officials say the asteroid is not in danger of impacting Earth.
Since being discovered from Maui, the asteroid has begun to be studied by telescopes across the globe. Radar observations are expected to be looking for details that are less than 6.5 feet on its surface.
It’s expected that as the asteroid nears Earth, it will brighten to about 10th magnitude, making it possible for even amateur astronomers with small telescopes to see it as it moves across the sky.
According to officials, the asteroid has a unique orbit, one that is highly inclined relative to the ecliptic plane that contains the Earth, sun, other major planets, and most asteroids.
The orbit is also highly elliptical, or oval, which means that after passing Earth, the asteroid will go closer to the sun than to Mercury before going back out to the outer part of its orbit, where it spends most of its time. This distance is about four times as far from the sun as Earth is.
It was the unusual orbit of the asteroid which made it difficult to discover.
Officials say the last time that it came close to Earth was about 30 years ago.
The search for near-Earth objects by the Pan-STARRS telescope is funded by the NASA Near Earth Object Observations program.