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Oct 27 2015

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Close encounter on Halloween

Per SpaceWeather.com (which doesn’t lend itself to links very well):

HALLOWEEN ASTEROID: An asteroid the size of a battleship will fly past the Earth-Moon system on Oct. 31st. There’s no danger of a collision. Asteroid 2015 TB145 will be 300,000 miles away from Earth at closest approach on Halloween. That’s too far for goosebumps, but close enough for a good view. NASA radar astronomers plan to make fantastic maps of the passing space rock.

At the moment, 2015 TB145 is still a dim speck in the southern constellation Eridanus. Amateur astronomer Marian Urbanik photographed it on Oct. 26th using a remotely controlled 0.43 meter telescope in Siding Springs, Australia:

When Urbanik took the picture, the asteroid was shining like a 16th magnitude star. By the time it reaches the Earth-Moon system on Halloween, it will have brightened 250-fold to 10th magnitude. That’s too dim for the naked eye, but an easy target for experienced astronomers with mid-sized backyard telecopes. An article from Sky & Telescope discusses the asteroid’s visibility.

2015 TB145 is about 400 meters wide. According to the Minor Planet Center, this is the closest known approach by an object this large until asteroid 1999 AN10 (800 meters wide) approaches Earth at a distance of 238,000 miles in August 2027.

Lance Benner, a radar astronomer at JPL, has raised the intriguing possibility that 2015 TB145 is not an asteroid. “The asteroid’s orbit is very oblong with a high inclination to below the plane of the solar system,” said Benner. “Such a unique orbit, along with its high encounter velocity — about 35 kilometers or 22 miles per second — raises the question of whether it may be some type of comet. If so, then this would be the first time that the Goldstone radar has imaged a comet from such a close distance.”

Interesting…I look forward to seeing the imagery they’re able to collect from it.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/10/27/close-encounter-on-halloween/

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