A comet that, in certain lights, resembles a human skull will zip right past Earth just in time for Halloween.
Scientists have been observing the space rock from the Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii. It is expected to safely flyby Earth on Nov. 11.
The comet was first discovered back in October 2015 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System or Pan-STARRS-1, part of Near-Earth Object Observations Program funded by NASA. The space rock called Asteroid 2015 TB145 is more likely a dead comet, which has already shed its volatiles after repeated close encounters with the Sun.
Scientists also found that it only reflects about six percent of light, slightly higher than a typical comet that reflects about 3 to 5 percent of light.
"That suggests it could be cometary in origin — but as there is no coma evident, the conclusion is it is a dead comet," explained Vishnu Reddy, a research scientist from the Planetary Science Institute."
Asteroid 2015 TB145 will fly by the Earth at a distance of about 25 million miles. Its first observed flyby happened on Oct. 31, 2015, prompting scientists at NASA to call it the "Great Pumpkin."
First radar images captured by the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico revealed that the Halloween comet is about 2,000 feet in diameter and completes its rotation every five hours.
It is spherical in shape that, in some angles, eerily looks like a floating skull.
Dead comet that will safely zip by Earth on Oct 31 looks eerie like a skull: https://t.co/8bq4UBrFO9 #HappyHalloween pic.twitter.com/gICZTSLcZr — NASA (@NASA) October 30, 2015
NASA classified the comet as "potentially hazardous" but, despite its appearance, it likely will not crash into the Earth and cause the apocalypse any time soon. The space agency made the classification because of Asteroid 2015 TB145's size and proximity to the Earth, but scientists have already mapped its trajectory in case it comes dangerously close.
"One of the directives of the Arecibo Observatory is to measure with high precision the distance to asteroids and their speed, which can be used to study the asteroid's orbit and predict its motion for hundreds of years," assured Edgard Rivera-Valentine, a planetary scientist at Arecibo Observatory, in 2015.
The comet will not likely approach Earth and pose a threat within this century. Its next close flyby is expected to happen in 2088.