As earthlings in the US get ready to don Halloween costumes on October 31, asteroid 2015 TB145, dubbed the ‘Great Pumpkin’ in a reference to the holiday, will fly past the planet at a safe distance, NASA said.
The asteroid will make its closest approach to the Earth – roughly 490,000 km away, about 1.3 times the distance to the moon – on October 31 at 1.05 pm EDT and will be visible through small telescopes.
The Great Pumpkin, with a diameter of about 400 metres, will be moving a speed of 126,000 kph (78,200 mph), EFE reported on Friday.
“The trajectory of 2015 TB145 is well understood,” said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The gravitational influence of the asteroid is so small it will have no detectable effect on the moon or anything here on Earth, including tides, NASA said in a statement.
Asteroid 2015 TB145 was discovered on October 10 by the University of Hawaii’s Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System on Haleakala, Maui, part of the NASA-funded Near-Earth Object Observation Program, and since then scientists have calculated its trajectory.
Scientists will use the 34 metre DSS 13 antenna at Goldstone, California, to bounce radio waves off the asteroid.
Radar echoes will in turn be collected by 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.
NASA scientists hope to obtain radar images of the asteroid as fine as about 2 metres per pixel.