The ‘Halloween asteroid’, also known as 2015 TB145, passed by the Earth at a safe distance on October 31, but not before astronomers were able to snap some photos.
Nicknamed ‘Spooky’, the asteroid is likely a dead comet, and, appropriately enough for Halloween, from some angles it looked like a skull, but the newest images to be released weren’t nearly as creepy.
“The radar images of asteroid 2015 TB145 show portions of the surface not seen previously and reveal pronounced concavities, bright spots that might be boulders, and other complex features that could be ridges,” Lance Benner, leader of NASA’s asteroid radar research program said in a statement. “The images look distinctly different from the Arecibo radar images obtained on Oct. 30 and are probably the result of seeing the asteroid from a different perspective in its three-hour rotation period.”
Benner and colleagues captured these images of the asteroid by sending microwave beams up toward the asteroid from an observatory in California. The microwaves bounced off the asteroid and headed back to Earth, where a 330-foot radio telescope in West Virginia recorded the information from the waves as radar images (seen above).
Astronomers only spotted the Halloween asteroid three weeks before it arrived. It is hoped that new measurements and images of the asteroid will be able to help us learn more about our unexpected visitor, and others like it that might stop by unannounced.
Asteroid 2015 TB145 will visit us again in 2018, but it won’t be close. At its closest point to our planet, the asteroid will still be 24 million miles away. By comparison, it came within 300,000 miles of Earth on Saturday.