The Return of the skull-shaped asteroid: Astronomers say it’s coming back in 2018

The return of the “skull-shaped” asteroid: astronomers calculate when the weirdly shaped space rock will approach Earth.

There are strange things out there in space.

Astrophysicists have warned that our planet will have a new encounter with a strange asteroid that strangely resembles a skull.

The object in question is known as 2015 TB145 and possibly formed from the remains of an extinct comet say, experts.

But don’t worry, astronomers are confident it won’t collide with Earth anytime soon. Image Credit: NAIC-Arecibo/NS

The asteroid measures between 625 and 700 meters in diameter and has a rotation period of 2.94 hours.

Astronomer Pablo Santos-Sanz, from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (Spain), characterized it as „a “dark” asteroid, whose reflectance index is «scarcely superior to that of coal.“

“It is currently 3.7 astronomical units away from Earth; that is, 3.7 times the average distance from the Earth to the sun.”

The skull-shaped asteroid “has a magnitude of 26.5, which means it is only visible from Earth using very large telescopes or space telescopes.”

This celestial body caught the attention of scientists and amateur astronomers during its first approach to Earth, which coincided with Halloween on October of 2015.

Animation showing the rotation of the weirdly shaped space rock.

In 2015, the skull-shaped asteroid passed between a distance of 499,000 kilometers of our planet, traveling at a speed of 125,500 kilometers per hour.

During this ‘close’ encounter, astronomers observed the curious celestial body in order to try and gather as much information as possible.

Thanks to numerous measurements, which included observations with the Pan-STARRS telescope located in Hawaii (USA), scientists modeled the course of the asteroid and predicted it will travel passed Earth in November of 2018.

Thankfully, the mystery shaped asteroid will travel noticeably farther from our planet, with an equivalent distance of about 105 Earth-Moon distances, compared to an approximate 1.3 distances when it zipped passed Earth in 2015.

Despite accurate measurements, NASA scientists have warned the asteroid has an erratic orbit, which means that astronomers aren’t sure where it will end up traveling, but they are confident it will miss Earth in the near future.

Users on social networks discussed what would happen if such an asteroid impacted Earth. Some argue that if an asteroid of about 700 meters in diameter impacted our planet it could wipe out entire cities.

Furthermore, if it were to hit Earth, there is a 71 percent chance that it would hit water, and not landmass. Then, a tsunami is our biggest concern. A fireball product of the impact would have an approximate radius of more than eight kilometers. Such a collision would create numerous earthquakes measuring high 7’s on the Richter scale.

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