Halloween is about to get a whole lot spookier. NASA announced that an asteroid known as the “death comet” will fly by planet Earth just a few days after October 31st.
Why is it called a death comet, you might ask? Because it’s literally shaped like a skull.
As terrifying as that sounds, it’s not the first time this asteroid has come close to our planet. Scientists first spotted it when it flew by on Halloween 2015. The comet’s official name is 2015 TB145 (and NASA also calls it The Great Pumpkin).
The comet was first discovered by scientists at the University of Hawaii working on NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations (NEOO) Program. It was observed with NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, and the first images came via the National Science Foundation’s Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
Of course, that’s not the actual comet—the real one appears in the image below…and it still definitely resembles a skull.
This year, 2015 TB145 is projected to fly by on November 11th, but at a much further distance than its 2015 appearance. And despite the spooky name, scientists say the asteroid will not pose any threat to life on Earth. It will pass by at a distance of around 24 million miles, which NASA says is “about a quarter of the distance between Earth and the Sun.” This is not considered a close encounter, and it’s nothing anyone needs to worry about.
The comet’s reappearance is also good for science. A researcher at Pablo Santos-Sanz of the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia said, “Although this approach shall not be so favorable, we will be able to obtain new data which could help improve our knowledge of this mass and other similar masses that come close to our planet.”
So as creepy as this whole death comet thing sounds, it might actually be a good thing!