According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), an asteroid shaped like a skull will pass by the earth right after Halloween. The asteroid, known as 2015 TB145, is considered a “dead comet,” which means it has had all of its gases burnt out after taking too many trips around the sun. Also known as “the great pumpkin” by NASA, the space rock is almost 600 meters in length and on its last pass came within 300,000 miles of Earth in 2015.
Astronomers have been monitoring the asteroid from an infrared telescope facility in Mauna Kea, Hawaii and believe this year the rock will pass 24 million miles from Earth. Distance-wise, while that may seem like a lot, it is a close encounter, about a quarter of the length between the earth and the sun. Unfortunately for stargazers everywhere, this year the asteroid will only be visible as a speck of light on the vast horizon of space. Speaking to CNN, Paul Chodas from JPL said, “This time it’s not coming close enough (to Earth) to be any larger than a dot of light.”
NASA has been monitoring asteroids for potential collisions with the Earth since 1998 under the Near Earth Observation Program. This program was started after public concern following asteroid 1997 XF11, which was assessed as a potential collision risk in 2028. Commenting on the hysteria concerning 1997 XF11, Chodas said at the time, “There is simply no chance of XF11 impacting our planet that year, or for the next 200 years.”
Not coincidentally, this was also the same year Armageddon and Deep Impact were released in theaters; two genre-defining asteroid collision movies proving that when it counts, Bruce Willis is always there to save the day (and the world).