Halloween asteroid 2015 TB145 is making its close Earth flyby Saturday, but viewing it will be more difficult than catching the supermoon this week. Slooh will have a asteroid 2015 TB145 live stream beginning at 12:30 p.m. EDT for those hoping to catch a glimpse of the interplanetary equivalent of the Great Pumpkin.
Asteroid 2015 TB145 was discovered Oct. 10 by the Pan-Starrs 1 program at the University of Hawaii. The large asteroid is estimated to measure 1,300 feet across. Its discovery came as a bit of a surprise to astronomers, who quickly mobilized to better understand this heavenly body. They rapidly mapped out its trajectory. The asteroid is the largest known object to be making such a close flyby until August 2027, when the 2,600-foot asteroid 1999 AN10 will pass within just 238,000 miles of Earth, according to NASA. In comparison, asteroid 2015 TB145 will pass within 302,000 miles -- 1.3 lunar distances -- of Earth Saturday.
"There's no risk of an impact -- it can't hit Earth -- [so] instead it represents an outstanding opportunity for scientific investigations of this object. In a real sense, this is like a spacecraft flyby where the Earth is the spacecraft that's encountering the asteroid closely enough for us to obtain detailed radar images," Lance Benner, a representative of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told International Business Times.
NASA mapped out its trajectory, but little else is known about the object. Based on its fast speed -- roughly 22 miles per second -- it could be a dormant comet. Radio telescopes such as the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Green Bank Telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia, and the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center's Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico will be invaluable in learning more about the asteroid. Radio telescopes will send out waves that will bounce off the object to create radar images. Depending on their quality, astronomers could get a great look at the asteroid's shape and surface.
The first radar images collected by the Arecibo Observatory have revealed hints that asteroid 2015 TB145 may be a dead comet. Data collected by NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility indicate the asteroid reflects more light (6 percent) than a typical comet (3 to 5 percent). "That suggests it could be cometary in origin -- but as there is no coma evident, the conclusion is it is a dead comet," Vishnu Reddy, a research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, said in a statement.
Slooh's live stream will include commentary by astronomer Bob Berman and planetary-impacts expert Mark Boslough. The broadcast will originate from the Canary Islands. You can view the Halloween asteroid live stream below.