Tuesday, October 26, 2021

This spooky looking asteroid attended the Halloween party six years ago!

On October 31, 2015, asteroid 2015 TB145 transited 486,000 km from the Earth's surface, about 1.27 times the distance that separates the Moon from our planet.

What attracted the attention of the mass media was the appearance of the asteroid, so much so that it earned the name of Halloween Asteroid. In the first radar images, the asteroid seemed to have a skull shape, with two eyes and nasal passages clearly visible. This is an excellent example of pareidolia, the phenomenon according to which the human mind tends to trace causal forms to everyday objects.

In fact, as shown by the following radar images, the shape of the asteroid had nothing particular and was similar to that of most asteroids.

To date, we know very little about the physical characteristics of 2015 TB145. The only property we know of (even if only approximately) is its diameter, which should be around 400 meters. This is because after the flyby of October 2015 the asteroid has always been too far from Earth to be observed. This until 2018, when it was rediscovered during a passage that took it 40 million km from Earth. However, even this distance was too great to be studied: its properties therefore still remain largely a mystery.

Credit: NAIC-Arecibo/NSF. 

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