A massive asteroid the size of four football pitches will narrowly miss earth on Saturday.
Asteroid 2015 TB145 was only discovered less than three weeks ago and has been named ‘The Great Pumpkin’ as it will hurtle past earth on Halloween.
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The European Space Agency has warned of the danger of such asteroids should they impact with earth and the need for increased vigilance of the night sky.
The Daily Telegraph reports:
Asteroid 2015 TB145, which is 1,300ft wide and has been dubbed ‘The Great Pumpkin’, will pass by safely at around 5pm GMT on October 31 and could provide a stunning meteor shower, particulary in Asia.
The object previously skimmed Earth in 1975 and was spotted again by the Universtiy of Hawaii on October 11, before being confirmed by the ESA the following day. Experts said it demonstrated just how important it is to monitor asteroids which could be dangerous.
The best time to see the space rock will be between overnight Friday before dawn on Saturday. The huge asteroid will slowly travel through the night sky near the constellation of Orion.
It will be the closest an asteroid comes to Earth until August 2027 when asteroid 1999 AN10 is expect to make slightly nearer pass.
The asteroid will safely miss Earth by just 300,000 miles, which is further away from Earth than the Moon, but which is a close pass on a cosmic scale. However the ESA say the flyby highlights the need to watch for space rocks.
“The fact that such a large near-Earth object (NEO), capable of doing significant damage if it were to strike our planet, was discovered only 21 days before closest approach demonstrates the necessity for keeping daily watch of the night sky,” says Detlef Koschny, in ESA’s Space Situational Awareness office.
There is no chance that the asteroid will hit our planet, neither now nor in the next 100 years at least, and it is not included in ESA’s official Nearth Earth Objects Risk List.
Almost nothing is known about the asteroid aside what can be inferred from observations to date.
“There is no reasonable chance that it will strike either Earth or the moon,” said Daniel Brown, Lecturer in Astronomy at Nottingham Trent University.
“Any gravitational interactions that would cause earthquakes or epic floods can also be ruled out. Assuming typical asteroid densities and the estimated diameter of TB145, it will only have a mass that is a tiny fraction of the mass of the moon and therefore a minute gravitational impact upon either Earth or the moon.
“It is not productive to feel threatened by asteroids on a daily basis. Crossing the road can be far more dangerous.”
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Marco Micheli, an astronomer working at ESA’s NEO Coordination Centre in Italy, said: “The diameter of about 400m has a large uncertainty, as is usual in the case of any object for which we do not yet know details, such as its composition.
“More accurate information on the size will likely become available once the object is observed by radar, which is expected to occur between now and early November via NASA’s Goldstone tracking stations and the Green Bank telescope.”
Last year more than 100 scientists and astronauts, including Lord Martin Rees, Brian Cox and Richard Dawkins, came together to call for a huge asteroid detection system.
Systems are already in place to track large asteroids, but recent research suggests that rocks as small as 164 feet across would still be big enough to cause devastating results on Earth.
There are around 5,000 asteroids of this size which come close enough to Earth to warrant monitoring, although experts believe that is only a small fraction of the space rocks that are out there.
Next year the European Space Agency will begin testing its new Fly-Eye telescope which will perform nightly surveys to check that no asteroids are in danger of hitting Earth.
“Objects of this size are often spotted by automated surveys,” said Mr Koschny.
“The only difference is that, being so large, they are often found when they are quite far away, out to 2.5 times the Sun–Earth distance, and not just before a close approach, as in this case.”
Lance Benner, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told International Business Times: “Only about half of the near-Earth asteroids similar in size to 2015 TB145 have been discovered, so we should expect more discoveries like this occasionally.”
On Halloween night the asteroid can be watched here
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