Photo: NAIC-Arecibo/NSF

A Spooky, Skull-Shaped “Death Comet” to Fly by Earth After Halloween

News Astronomy
by Eben Diskin Oct 3, 2018

A creepy, skull-shaped asteroid will fly past Earth on November 11th and it’s not Voldemort’s Dark Mark, or a Halloween hoax.

The asteroid was first spotted on October 31st, 2015, leading NASA to name it the “Great Pumpkin” asteroid. When it was first seen, it passed 300,000 miles from Earth, but this year it’s a little farther at 25 million miles. Unfortunately, given its distance and small diameter (around 2,000 feet) the “Great Pumpkin asteroid,” or “death comet,” can’t be seen with the naked eye, so take out your telescope.

The first recorded images of the asteroid resembled a human skull, though that has been somewhat refuted by newer images. Vishnu Reddy, professor of planetary sciences at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Lab, told NBC News MACH in an email, “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.”

Due to its size and closeness to Earth — and true to its “death comet” reputation — the asteroid has been classified as potentially dangerous. However, astronomers do not believe we’re in any immediate danger of being struck. The asteroid won’t come anywhere near Earth until 2088, when it will approach within 5.4 million miles.

Check out this video from NASA to learn more about the asteroid.


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