Skull-Like Death Comet to Pass by Earth Just Days After Halloween

Asteroid 2015 TB145 was first discovered in 2015 and has made headlines worldwide due to its odd shape resembling a skull.

Skull-Like Death Comet to Pass by Earth Just Days After Halloween
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When it comes to space, there have been many coincidences that have occurred simultaneously with various events, which in many ways adds the air of mystery and wonder that feed into our fascination with the cosmos.


Skull-Shaped Halloween Asteroid Will Pass Earth Again in 2018

These occurrences no doubt add to our fascination with all things relating to our cosmos beyond Earth. From the Japanese startup that is hoping to develop the world's first artificial meteor shower to narratives centering around a possible tenth planet, our preoccupation with all things space is still strong.

All that being said, some coincidences are a bit too strange, even for the most seasoned star-gazer and therefore attract even more attention. One such event is that of the so-called "Death Comet" or "Dead Comet" which has a shape similar to a skull and is expected to pass by Earth in the next few weeks. 

Going formally by the name of "Asteroid 2015 TB145", the comet is set to pass our planet on November 11th, which is not too many days after Halloween. It will zip past the Earth at a distance of 38 million kilometers but will likely remain in our minds far longer than that.

A repeat ghoulish visit

Many stargazers will remember that Asteroid 2015 TB145 made its first appearance back in 2015, also around the same time of year. At the time, based on images captured by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the comet measured approximately 600 meters in diameter and was completing a full rotation more or less once every five hours.

Around the time of the first spotting, NASA NEO Observations Program Acting Program Manager Kelly Fast commented, "The IRTF data may indicate that the object might be a dead comet, but in the Arecibo images it appears to have donned a skull costume for its Halloween flyby."

The pros and cons of the name

Some in the scientific community, however, are hesitant to let the name stick, as they seem to believe that it may somehow overshadow the significance of the event. 

As Vishnu Reddy, a professor of planetary sciences at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Lab, relayed to NBC News MACH: "I don't know why it's called a 'death comet'. There is no scientific basis for such a term. Maybe it is related to the time of the flyby."

Although Reddy makes some valid points, it is also true that the fantastic names generated to describe space events and celestial objects are an important part of helping establish a narrative that will appeal to a large part of the general population, and which also, in turn, may inspire the next generation of young learners to enter the sciences.

Beyond those in the scientific community, who among us would remember the name Asteroid 2015 TB145 five, or even ten, years from now? Therefore, it would serve us all better to let the memorable and harmless name stick around.



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