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Full Version: Spooky skull-shaped asteroid will haunt Earth in 2018
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Skull-Shaped Asteroid

Alas, poor 2015 TB145, which by a twist of fate immediately and irrevocably became nicknamed the "Halloween asteroid" after its skull-like form skimmed 300,000 miles away from Earth on October 31, 2015. That's just a little bit farther away from Earth than the distance at which the moon orbits us. But one visit wasn't enough for this space rock, which will visit our neighborhood again next November.

The asteroid's fly by in 2015 allowed scientists to become more familiar with its infinite scientific jests, like the fact that it measures between about 2,100 feet across. That plus its orbital path makes it a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid, living up to its spooky nickname.

They also tried to pin down more clues to the asteroid's life. Much of the secret to studying asteroids lies in catching its flashes of reflected light. That lets scientists estimate, for example, at what speed it is rotating as it hurtles through space—likely about once every three hours in this object's case, although some data suggests it may be more like once every five hours.

Those flashes were few and far between, however, since the surface of 2015 TB145 is painted thick with molecules that reflect only 5 or 6 percent of the light that hits it. “This means that it is very dark, only slightly more reflective than charcoal,” Pablo Santos-Sanz, an astronomer at the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, told Spanish news agency SINC.

They also got a sense of the object's path, determining that it traces an oval between perilously near the sun (closer even than Mercury orbits it) and out past Jupiter. Even though 2015 marked the first time scientists spotted it, they believe it's an ancient object. _ continue