The Eccentric Asteroid Approaches

October 21, 2015

Halloween might be a little scarier this year. NASA has discovered, just ten days ago, an asteroid that is due to pass by earth in the early morning hours of 31st October. Asteroid 2015 TB145 is currently hurtling through space at approximately 126,000 km/h. It will pass earth within 1.3 lunar distances, or 499,000 km. That may sound like a fair distance, but it’s considered ‘potentially hazardous’ according to NASA’s calculations, not only for its relative proximity to earth but also its size, estimated to be 280-620 meters in diameter. This is 28 times larger than the Chelyabinsk meteor that blew up in the atmosphere over Russia in February, 2013.

Scientists seem assured that the asteroid’s potential to collide with our planet to be less than 0.01 percent, about the same odds, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, of a person getting injured by a toilet in any given year.

Generally, asteroid trajectories are picked up well over a year in advance. In fact, NASA has already reported that asteroid 1999 AN10 will pass a mere 1 lunar distance from earth in August 2027. The fact that the Halloween asteroid was picked up so recently is that it has an “extremely eccentric” path. That’s not a funny way of flying but rather the amount an object’s orbit deviates from a perfect circle.

Though the asteroid won’t be visible to the naked eye, those with a moderately sized telescope will be able to see its movement across the constellation of Orion. To find the coordinates and the time of visibility in your part of the world, visit the EarthSky article.

To learn more about orbital eccentricity, visit the Wiki page.

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