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Skull-shaped asteroid will fly past Earth on Halloween

Chron logo Chron 10/31/2015 John Boyd, Houston Chronicle

This image of asteroid 2015 TB145, a dead comet, was generated using radar data collected by the National Science Foundation's 1,000-foot (305-meter) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The radar image was taken on Oct. 30, 2015, and the image resolution is 25 feet (7.5 meters) per pixel.Credits: NAIC-Arecibo/NSF: This image of asteroid 2015 TB145, a dead comet, was generated using radar data collected by the National Science Foundation's 1,000-foot (305-meter) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The radar image was taken on Oct. 30, 2015, and the image resolution is 25 feet (7.5 meters) per pixel. Credits: NAIC-Arecibo/NSF © Hearst Newspapers This image of asteroid 2015 TB145, a dead comet, was generated using radar data collected by the National Science Foundation's 1,000-foot (305-meter) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The radar image was taken on Oct. 30, 2015, and the image resolution is 25 feet (7.5 meters) per pixel. Credits: NAIC-Arecibo/NSF As if Halloween needed to be any scarier, a giant skull is flying through space toward Earth.

"The (Infrared Telescope Facility) data may indicate that the object might be a dead comet, but in the Arecibo images it appears to have donned a skull costume for its Halloween flyby," said Kelly Fast, IRTF program scientist at NASA Headquarters. 

Earth is in no real danger, though; NASA projects the object - officially "asteroid TB145" - will pass by Earth from about 302,000 miles away at about noon CST on Halloween.

Still, for Halloween drama it's hard to beat a giant space skull.

The object was first spotted Oct. 10 by the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS-1 (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) on Haleakala, Maui. It's next Earth flyby will come in September 2018, although at a much farther distance: about 24 million miles.

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